Inside the wild and successful life of Sergey Brin, who helped create Google over 20 years ago and is now worth $97 billion

Sergey Brin at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in March 2022. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page launched Google from a dorm room near Stanford University in 1998.
  • Since then, Google has built the world's most popular search engine and branched out into everything from self-driving cars to life-extension research.
  • Here's everything you need to know about the 48-year-old Brin, who is now worth over $97 billion.

Sergey Brin, 48, is now valued at an estimated $97 billion, according to Bloomberg's Billionaires Index. But he comes from more humble beginnings.

sergey brin
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source: Bloomberg

Brin was born in the Soviet Union during the summer of 1973. His father dreamed of being an astrophysicist, but his Jewish background and the USSR's anti-Semitism kept him from those ambitions. Instead, he ended up working as an economist for a government planning agency and crunching numbers for Soviet propaganda, according to journalist Steven Levy's book, "In the Plex."

USSR Soviet Union armored vehicle Afghanistan Kabul withdrawal
Soviet soldiers in 1988. (AP Photo/ Liu Heung-Shing)

Source: In The Plex 

The family managed to get exit visas and flee the USSR when Brin was 6. But his family's stressful, troubled experience left the Google cofounder with a lasting appreciation for democracy and freedom.

russia 1989
Soviet short-range missiles pass below an image of Lenin on Red Square in 1989. 
AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko/stf

Source: In The Plex 

The Brin family ended up in Maryland, where the Google cofounder was enrolled in a Montessori school that emphasized independence and fostering creativity. Later on, Brin would discover that his Google cofounder, Larry Page, had also gone to a Montessori school.

Colorful beads on a teaching toy used in Montessori education
An educational toy used by Montessori teachers. Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

Source: In The Plex

Brin didn't revisit Moscow until he was 17, during a class trip led by his father. "Thank you for taking us all out of Russia," Brin told his dad. Spurred by a blossoming defiant streak, he threw pebbles at a police car, and almost got in serious trouble when the officers inside noticed, according to a 2007 profile of Brin.

moscow russia
Moscow, Russia in 1990. AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko

Source: Moment Magazine

Brin earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science at the University of Maryland, and then flew west to Stanford to get his Ph.D. in computer science. There, his love of high-adrenaline exercise flourished: he tried out skating, skiing, gymnastics, and even trapeze.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin laying inside and on top of a yellow spiral tube
Page, left, and Brin in 2004. Ben Margot/AP

Sources: Founders of GoogleMoment Magazine

Brin's resume from back in 1996, as he was working toward his Ph.D. at Stanford, is still available online. Before Google, Brin was more focused on making an algorithm for personalized movie recommendations, or finding a way to automatically detect cases of copyright infringement.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin laugh while eating lunch with Google employees
Page and Brin eat lunch with Google employees in the cafe at Google in 2001. 
LEA SUZUKI/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Source: Insider

Brin met Google cofounder Larry Page at Stanford in 1995. The two reportedly found each other "obnoxious" at first, but they later became classmates and close friends who geeked out about computer science, according to a 2005 Wired profile.

young larry page sergey brin
Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin. RANDI LYNN BEACH / AP Images

Source: Wired

Brin and Page started collaborating in 1996 on a search engine they initially called BackRub. They registered the domain Google.com in September 1997 with the mission to organize the world's information, and dropped out of Stanford the following year to work on their search engine. The rest, as we now know, is history.

Early Google
Here's what Google.com looked like in 1997. The Internet Archive

Source: Wired

The founders created the first Google Doodle in 1998 to let people know they weren't around to do damage control if the site broke — that's because they were at Burning Man, the freewheeling art festival in the middle of the Nevada desert.

First Google Doodle
Google

Source: Insider

Both Brin and Page are "burners," meaning they're devout fans and attendees of Burning Man. When the time came to hire an outside CEO for Google, they approved the hire of Eric Schmidt in 2001 after learning he had attended the festival. They then brought him to Burning Man with them to "see how he would do."

burning man
Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Source: Insider

As Google ballooned from simply a search engine to a massive corporation with dozens of diverse projects, Brin became the mastermind behind some of its most ambitious ones as the head of X, the company's moonshot factory. His projects included self-driving cars, smart contact lenses, and smart glasses.

Sergey Brin
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Source: The New Yorker

For a long time, you couldn't spot Brin without the computerized Google Glass smart glasses. The New York Times reported that Brin may have played a big role in the product's rocky launch in 2012, rushing it into the world before it was ready for public scrutiny.

sergey brin
Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Source: The New York Times

Brin also worked on Google's now-dismantled social network, Google Plus. He admitted onstage in 2014 that he should have never worked on it because he's "kind of a weirdo" and not very social. "It was probably a mistake for me to be working on anything tangentially related to social to begin with," Brin said.

Sergey Brin
AP

Source: The Verge

Those who have known Brin say he believes in using knowledge and power for the greater good. The Economist once called him the "Enlightenment Man," for his dedication to using reason and science to solve huge world problems.

Sergey Brin
Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Source: The Economist

"Obviously everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical," Brin has said. "And ultimately making a big difference in the world."

sergey brin
Brin speaks to the media at a preview of Google's prototype autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California, in 2015. Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Source: ABC News

But even as Google grew into a multibillion-dollar company, Brin maintained the freewheeling spirit of the early days. Around Google's campus, he typically wore workout clothes and Vibram barefoot shoes, and he was frequently seen zipping around the office on Rollerblades, doing yoga stretches during meetings, or walking around on his hands for fun.

Larry Page (left) and Sergey Brin take a stroll on Google's campus in Mountain View, California, in 2003.
Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin on Google's campus in Mountain View, California, in 2003. Kim Kulish/Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Brin also has a wild sense of humor. "He conducted job interviews once dressed as a cow," early Google employee Douglas Edwards once told Fast Company.

sergey brin google
Getty Images, Justin Sullivan

Source: Fast Company

In 2007, Brin married Anne Wojcicki, the CEO of genetics company 23andMe and the sister of early Google employee (and now YouTube CEO) Susan Wojcicki. For the wedding, the couple invited guests to a secret location in the Bahamas and wore bathing suits for the ceremony — which took place on a sandbar.

Anne Wojcicki smiles at Sergey Brin while walking outside
Anne Wojcicki and Sergey Brin in 2012. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Source: Vanity Fair

Brin and Wojcicki have two children together. Both kids have the last name Wojin, a portmanteau of their parents' last names.

Anne Wojcicki and Sergey Brin
Anne Wojcicki and Sergey Brin. Steve Jennings / Stringer

Source: The New York Times

The couple donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charity, including to Parkinson's research. The neurodegenerative disease runs in Brin's family (both his great aunt and mother had it) and a test through 23andMe — Wojcicki's company — revealed that Brin has a genetic mutation that makes him predisposed.

Sergey Brin
Ruben Sprich/Reuters

Source: Inside Philanthropy

To lower his chances of getting Parkinson's, Brin started exercising even more intensely and drinking green tea twice a day. Due to his health regimen and scientific progress, he estimated in 2010 that he now has only about a 10% chance of getting the disease.

google eric schmidt, larry page, sergey brin
From left: Brin, Eric Schmidt, and Larry Page. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Source: Wired

However, Brin's marriage to Wojcicki hit the rocks in 2013, and the couple separated. They officially finalized their divorce in June 2015 after eight years of marriage.

brin wojcicki
Donald Bowers/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company

Source: Insider

It later came out that around the time of his separation in 2013, Brin had started an affair with a Google employee who was also in a relationship with another high-level Google executive at the same time.

Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass with hand on chin
Brin wearing Google Glass in 2013. Jeff Chiu/AP

Source: Vanity FairInsider

The 2018 book "Valley of Genius" also described Brin as "the Google playboy" during the company's early days. "He was known for getting his fingers caught in the cookie jar with employees that worked for the company in the masseuse room," a former employee said. "He got around."

sergey brin
Sergey Brin. Stephen Lam/Reuters

Source: Insider

In August 2015 Brin's title got a major upgrade when Google went through a major restructuring. Brin transitioned from director of special projects at the moonshot division, X, to become the president of Alphabet, Google's new parent company. Page was named Alphabet's CEO.

sergey brin
Re/code, Asa Mathat

Source: Insider

Meanwhile, Brin and Page had become billionaires several times over. In 2005, they bought a 50-person plane together. Brin also owns a superyacht, Dragonfly, which he bought back in 2011 for $80 million.

Larry Page Sergey Brin
Larry Page and Sergey Brin. AP

Source: Insider

Brin owns real estate in both New York City and California. He's invested quite a bit of money in Los Altos, where he owns property, through a real estate investment firm called Passerelle Investment Co. The investments went toward helping mom-and-pop, kid-friendly stores and cafes spring up or stay in business.

Los Altos Hills California
Houses in the hills in Los Altos, California. Andrei Stanescu/Getty Images

Source: The Wall Street Journal

In 2018, Brin married Nicole Shanahan, a lawyer and the founder of a legal-tech startup. The same year, they had a baby girl together.

sergey brin nicole shanahan
Sergey Brin and Nicole Shanahan. Kimberly White/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize

Source: Insider

In December 2019, Brin and Page shocked the world: They announced in a joint statement that they were stepping down from their respective roles at Alphabet. "We've never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there's a better way to run the company," they wrote. Both Page and Brin remain members of Alphabet's board of directors.

larry page and sergey brin
Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Getty

Source: Insider

In June 2022, Insider reported that Brin had quietly filed for divorce from Shanahan, citing "irreconcilable differences." They've been separated since December 2021, according to court filings obtained by Insider.

Sergey Brin Nicole Shanahan
Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Source: Insider

Jillian D'Onfro and Paige Leskin contributed to earlier versions of this article.

Avery Hartmans

SOURCE https://www.businessinsider.com/sergey-brin-google-alphabet-life-photos-2016-12
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