Google (GOOG) CEO Larry Page took the unusual step this week of sending an email to reassure employees that he's not seriously ill, after Google announced Page missed the company's annual shareholder meeting because he lost his voice.
Speculation about Page's health was sparked Thursday, when he unexpectedly skipped the shareholder meeting and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said Page won't be doing any public speaking for several weeks.
Schmidt said Page would have to forgo speaking next week at the company's annual developer conference, where Google usually shows off its coolest new products, and on the quarterly conference call in which the company is expected to discuss its next earnings report in mid-July. But Schmidt said Page will continue to make strategic decisions and serve as CEO.
Google won't say what caused Page to lose his voice; a spokesman declined to comment Friday. But the 39-year-old Page, who co-founded the company with Sergey Brin, said in an email to employees Thursday that "there is nothing seriously wrong" with him. According to a person who read the email, Page also
The situation is a delicate one for a prominent company such as Google, said David Larcker, a Stanford business professor and an expert on corporate governance. While Page is entitled to a certain amount of privacy, Larcker added, the health of a well-known founder and CEO can be closely tied to the health of his company.
"He's a young guy, and you hope there's nothing seriously wrong," Larcker said of Page. "But given his status, you would think they could provide a little more detail that would stop people from engaging in speculation."
Larcker noted there was widespread debate about how much information Apple (AAPL) needed to share about the health of its longtime CEO, Steve Jobs, who took several medical leaves before his death from cancer last year. Jobs stepped down as CEO before he died, but Apple was criticized for not sharing information earlier about its legendary co-founder's illness.
Google's stock hasn't suffered from the news about Page. Shares closed Friday at $571.48, up more than 1 percent for the day. But The Wall Street Journal quoted one analyst, Doug Anmuth of JPMorgan, as saying that Schmidt's announcement "could raise some questions among investors."
Schmidt jokingly told shareholders this week that Brin had said his co-founder's condition would make Page a better CEO "because he's going to have to choose his words very carefully."
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022. Follow him at Twitter.com/brandonbailey.