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Android luminary takes leave from Essential amid controversy

Essential CEO Andy Rubin reportedly left Google after an internal investigation into an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

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Essential CEO Andy Rubin is reportedly taking a leave of absence. 
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired

Andy Rubin, known as the father of Android, has taken a leave of absence as CEO of upstart smartphone maker Essential, according to The Information (subscription required). 

The Information, citing unnamed people, reported that Rubin left Google three years ago after an internal Google investigation found he had carried on an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. The people didn't elaborate on what prompted the investigation. 

Mike Sitrick, a spokesman for Rubin, told The Information that any relationship he had while at Google was consensual.

Google couldn't be reached for comment. Essential confirmed Rubin's leave of absence, but declined to comment further.  

The report comes amid a slew of controversies involving men behaving badly in the tech world, as well as other professions such as entertainment, politics and media. The incidents have prompted several executives at venture capital funds to step down and raises broader questions of how women are treated in these fields. 

Rubin's case, however, appears to stem from a relationship between a manager and subordinate, which violates Google's policy. 

The leave of absence comes as Essential continues to struggle to gain a foothold in the smartphone market with consumers. The start-up entered the field with a bang, and sought to harness Rubin's prestige as the creator of the Android operating system, which powers most phones in the world. 

But missed deadlines, mixed reviews and lackluster demand for the phone -- the company cut the phone's price by $200 after just two months -- has taken some of the shine off of the company. 

Update, 8:53 a.m. PT: Adds a confirmation of Rubin's leave of absence from Essential.