Google chief executive Larry Page took on critics at a company shareholder meeting Thursday, telling his audience that Google's isn't on a spending spree and is focused on search and advertising.
The speech, likely part of Google's strategy to mend its sagging shares and relieve Wall Street and shareholder doubts, seemed distinctly choreographed. Page appeared in a "conservative blue blazer" and "made eye contact" with the audience, according to the San Jose Mercury News. He even managed to answer questions "with a smile." Why, he's like real people!
Page has long been considered by others as unlikeable, socially inept and standoffish -- the guy who's on his smartphone the entirety of a business meeting, or doesn't bother with social pleasantries -- so this new Page has to be socially acceptable. He has to be seen as CEO material and make both shareholders and Wall Street comfortable because it has financial consequences. Since Page took over in April, Google shares have dropped $100 and many financial analysts were underwhelmed by Page's brief appearance at an earnings call in April.
Wall Street began focusing on Google's 10 percent pay raises and its "hiring binge" contributing to higher operating costs, and their confidence in Page was so little it did nothing to alleviate the stock freefall. So Thursday meant it was time for Page to dispel all that negativity from Google and his role as CEO. From the Mercury News:
"I do want to reiterate to you: We are very careful stewards of shareholder money," Page said at one point. "We started as a start-up in a garage, and we are very, very careful about our spending. I was scared to hire an office manager because I thought it was too expensive. So we have that culture and that history, and we're very committed to that."
Although the meeting did have some bouts of hostility, Page kept his cool and stayed on point. From Reuters:
"At Google we have a philosophy that we don't want to choke innovation. So we want to make sure that we've got a lot of things going on in the company that are maybe speculative, maybe there's few people working on them and they really hope that they're going to build a billion-dollar business," Page said.
But, he added later, "We're not betting the farm on a lot of those things."