Google CEO loses voice, skips shareholder meeting

SAN FRANCISCO Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:53am IST

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc Chief Executive Larry Page sat out his company's annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday due to an unspecified condition affecting his voice that will sideline him from speaking engagements for several weeks.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told shareholders at the company's Mountain View headquarters that Page, who replaced Schmidt as CEO in April 2011, had "lost his voice".

Schmidt said Page continues to run the company but he would also not speak at the Google developer conference next week and at the company's second-quarter earnings results next month.

A Google spokesman said Page had been "asked to rest," but would not provide more details on his condition.

Google shareholders approved the creation of a special class of non-voting shares at the meeting, and Google executives provided more details on the recently completed $12.5 billion acquisition of smartphone maker Motorola Mobility.

Patrick Pichette, Google's finance chief, described Motorola as a "fantastic asset that needs to be reset and reprioritized."

"Think of Google in a way as actually taking Motorola private," he said, noting plans to "retool" many parts of Motorola.

Google, the world's No.1 Internet search engine, is moving aggressively to tap new growth opportunities and to ensure it remains at the center of the Web universe at a time when social networks and Internet-enabled mobile devices have become increasingly popular with consumers.

The Motorola acquisition provides Google with a trove of 17,000 patents - much needed ammunition in the ongoing legal battles that have engulfed the smartphone industry. But some investors have questioned Google's decision to enter the hardware business, a fiercely competitive market with thin profit margins and in which Google has little experience.

Pichette took issue with the "mythology" that Google doesn't know the hardware business, citing the company's longstanding efforts assembling its own computers for the datacenters that power its Web services.

He told investors not to expect "full integration" with Motorola, which Google has said it intends to operate as a separate business. "It is very important, from the economics and its culture, that it stays on its own battlefield," he said.

Google executives also cited advances in other Google initiatives, such as its Android mobile software and its Chrome Web browser.

NEW SHARES APPROVED

Page, along with co-founder Sergey Brin and Schmidt, control a majority of the Internet company through special shares that give them more voting power.

That capital structure, which has been emulated by the new generation of Web companies such as Facebook Inc and Zynga Inc, was also in the spotlight at Thursday's meeting.

A Google-proposed stock-split plan designed to preserve Page and Brin's majority control was passed with a majority of votes at the meeting.

Under the plan, shareholders will get one new share of non-voting "Class C" stock for each existing "Class A" share they own.

As a result, Google will be able to issue new non-voting shares for acquisitions and employee compensation without diluting the founders' voting heft over the long term.

The price of Google's current Class A shares will be halved when the new Class C shares are issued and listed on Nasdaq under a separate ticker. Google said the timing of the split is uncertain, due to pending litigation, but it does not expect it will occur before the fourth quarter.

A separate shareholder proposal to make all shares of Google stock have equal voting power and eliminate the special shares with 10-to-1 voting power did not garner a majority of votes.

Google shares were up $1.34 at $566.55 in after-hours trading on Thursday. Google's shares are off roughly 15 percent from their 52-week high of $670.22, as investors worry about how the shifting technology landscape will affect its core search advertising business.

(Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic and Malathi Nayak; Editing by Tim Dobbyn, Andre Grenon and Paul Tait)

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