When Google CEO Larry Page failed to show up for the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, industry watchers began to speculate about his health condition.
The explanation offered up by executive chairman Eric Schmidt that 39-year-old Page had lost his voice only served to fuel the rumors, as has the fact that Page has added nothing to his Google+ page for almost a month now.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Page himself has come forward in an attempt to dampen down the speculation, emailing Google staff to say “there is nothing seriously wrong with me” and that he would “continue to run the company.” And that was meant to be that.
However, Herman Leung, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, told the WSJ that he’s been getting calls from worried investors asking if they should be concerned about the situation. “Yeah, probably a little bit,” Leung said, adding “Hopefully, Google will give us an update.”
What has set tongues wagging even more is the fact that the company has stated that Page will miss Google’s annual Android developer conference next week as well as the company’s second-quarter earnings call in July. To some, it sounds like more than just a sore throat.
“We find it odd that the company would already rule him out of the second-quarter call which is likely still a few weeks away,” JP Morgan stock analyst Doug Anmuth said in a note to clients, adding that he believed it “could raise some questions” among investors.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at Yale School of Management, said that as the CEO of a public company, it’s important that Page is more open about such issues, claiming that the Google boss is “not entitled to his privacy.”
Of course, as the WSJ point out, the situation has echoes of the time when Steve Jobs kept news of his cancer private during the early part of his treatment. The Securities and Exchange Commission was even compelled to open an investigation to determine if Apple had withheld “material information” from shareholders. Hopefully Page’s condition isn’t as serious, but he may well be required to give more details about his condition to allay fears among investors.
Perhaps it’s a good sign that Schmidt appears to be laid back about the situation, relaying a joke to investors on Thursday that Google co-founder Sergey Brin “has said that this problem will make Larry a better CEO because he’s going to have to choose his words very carefully.”