MOUNTAIN VIEW -- Call it Larry Page's silent summer.
The Google (GOOG) CEO has skipped several public appearances over the last month because of an undisclosed malady that interferes with his ability to speak. While executives say he's still attending meetings and running the company, Page's absence this week from Google's quarterly financial conference call prompted some Wall Street analysts and governance experts to call for a better explanation of whatever caused the chief Googler to lose his voice.
"I understand the need to respect personal privacy, but it would certainly be helpful to have a bit more disclosure," said Colin Gillis, a financial analyst with BGC Partners, who characterized the company's refusal to explain Page's ailment as "part of a package of actions that is not friendly to shareholders."
Page himself has assured Google employees via email that there is "nothing seriously wrong" with his health. Other executives have implied the condition is temporary, although they have not said how long it might last. Beyond that, Google representatives have declined to comment.
Medical experts say voice loss can arise from injury or inflammation of the vocal cords, caused by strain from overuse, a viral
Resting the voice is critical for recovery, added Rosen, who is not involved in Page's treatment. "We tell singers: If your voice is hoarse, you shouldn't be singing. It is much better to rest."
The 39-year-old Page, who cofounded Google with Sergey Brin, regularly speaks in a voice that is somewhat high-pitched or nasal sounding. Citing unnamed sources, The New York Times said this week that Page has "chronically delicate vocal cords" and was advised by doctors to avoid talking for a while.
Others at the company, including Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, say Page has spoken during internal meetings in recent days, but is trying to rest his voice as much as he can.
Page, a computer scientist by training, has never played the role of garrulous salesman-in-chief that some CEOs relish. Even so, he spoke publicly several times this spring: He testified for two days in April during the federal court trial of a high-stakes patent dispute with tech rival Oracle (ORCL). He answered analysts' questions during the company's previous quarterly earnings call on April 12 and gave a speech in New York on May 21.
But after Page missed the company's annual shareholders' meeting on June 21, Schmidt announced the CEO had "lost his voice." Page didn't appear publicly at the company's annual software conference in San Francisco the following week, and he skipped a high-profile gathering of tech moguls in Idaho earlier this month. Currently, he has no appearances scheduled before the next earnings report in October.
Google's stock rose nearly 3 percent on Friday, closing at $610.82 on the day after the company reported relatively strong results for the last quarter. But some analysts said they would have liked to hear Page answer questions about Google's strategy during this week's conference call, which is a standard ritual for most corporate chiefs.
Since Page became CEO last year, the Internet search giant has expanded its business in mobile computing and bought a major smartphone manufacturer, Motorola Mobility. "Larry is remaking Google. This is his legacy. If he becomes derailed, that's a problem," said Gillis.
"It's like having Steve Jobs explain the iPad, versus having someone else do it," added Herman Leung of Susquehanna Financial Group.
Though it's a delicate subject, some corporate governance experts have drawn another parallel to Jobs, the legendary Apple (AAPL) CEO. Apple was criticized for not fully disclosing Jobs's health issues when he took a series of medical leaves before his death from cancer last year.
For now, most analysts said they're willing to take Google at its word that Page's overall health is good and his executive abilities aren't impaired. But others said the CEO is so important to the company that investors are entitled to a better understanding of his condition.
"To lose his voice for that length of time -- it raises questions as to what is wrong. I think if someone is unable to communicate with investors for several weeks, the investors are entitled to some kind of explanation," said Charles Elson, a professor at the University of Delaware's Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance.
Mercury News staff writer Lisa M. Krieger contributed to this report. Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey
More information about causes and treatments for voice loss can be found at a website maintained by the Watergate Voice Foundation, a nonprofit medical education group. The site is: www.voiceproblem.org