Eric Schmidt's departure as executive chairman of Alphabet comes at a crucial time for the tech behemoth. 

The Google parent's growing power and influence has spurred calls to break up the tech giant. Meanwhile, the company is increasing its investment in YouTube and Google Cloud, leveraging artificial intelligence in its various services, and expanding into hardware.

Google was one of the major technology companies that Russian operatives used to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign. Google investigators found that Russian-backed accounts spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertisements in Google's YouTube, Gmail, and other platforms, according to The Washington Post

Schmidt did a lot of the company's important public-facing work, John Battelle, author of The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, told The New York Times.

"At a moment when the world needs to have more conversations with Google about its growing power and influence," Battelle said, "my question is not why is Eric stepping down. It's who is going to fill the void."

Schmidt, 62, will continue to be a member of the company's board and become a technical adviser. Alphabet did not provide any reason for the change and said it expects to appoint another chairman. In recent years, the company has been building a new generation of younger executives. It appointed both Sundar Pichai as the CEO of Google and Ruth Porat as the CFO of Alphabet in 2015.