Google's Annual Meeting: More Entertainment Than News
Posted by: Rob Hof on May 10, 2007
I didn’t hear much real news out of Google’s annual meeting, though I did catch a glimpse of former star investment banker Frank Quattrone, yukking it up with David Drummond, Google’s senior vice-president of corporate development. The main point of business was a proposal by the Office of the Comptroller of New York City, asking Google to stop doing business in China and other countries that require censorship of some search results. It went down to defeat.
It was a standing-room-only crowd, I’m guessing fewer than 300 people, in a surprisingly small room, given that I’m pretty sure Google has a much bigger auditorium. Maybe it’s a way to maintain the illusion that they’re still a small company?
The most interesting comment from Google execs was when a shareholder asked if they were worried about the increasing perception of the company as the new Microsoft. Cofounder Larry Page said it’s natural for people to be concerned. “If I wasn’t working here, I would be concerned,” he admitted. But he promised that Google wouldn’t turn out like the companies whose power people are concerned about.
Anyway, the real fun was in the shareholder questions. One woman who had just been to Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting praised Google’s food in comparison. At Berkshire, she complained, “the shares are $110,000 a share and they serve you one taco!”
A lot of folks wanted Google to split its shares to widen the potential shareholder base. But CEO Eric Schmidt said firmly there were no plans to do so, because Google hadn’t seen the price yet become a problem for most shareholders.
Another shareholder asked if there was any prospect of Google once again forging partnerships with Yahoo! like it had when it started. Schmidt’s cryptic non-answer: “There’s always hope.”