South of the City and hard by the shores of San Francisco Bay, Genentech rarely attracts the attention of the founders of flashy Internet startups as they drive past its offices on the way to the airport. But the biotech company's longtime CEO, Art Levinson, is an integral part of the Silicon Valley scene, serving on the boards of both Google and Apple. That's why Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche's move to buy the 44 percent of Genentech it doesn't already own for a price north of $38 billion could have reverbations well beyond the world of automated pipetting systems.
Buried deep in Ken Auletta's magnum opus on Google in the New Yorker: Half of Apple's board of directors are either Google board members or senior advisors to the company. Is there a better example of Silicon Valley's inbred power circles? The overlappers: Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Genentech CEO Art Levinson, both on Google's and Apple's board; and Google advisors Bill Campbell, the chairman of Intuit, and Al Gore, the former VP turned venture capitalist, both of whom serve on Apple's board. One wonders how Apple manages to have a board meeting these days, given Google's broad reach into markets of interest to Apple, like cell phones, online video, and Web applications.