Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

How Much Does Wall Street Hate Google’s Stock-Split Plan?

How much does the Wall Street establishment dislike Google’s proposed share split plan announced Thursday alongside its first quarter earnings report? Apparently, a lot.

The plan essentially calls for Google stock to split two for one, and all shareholders will receive a share in a new class of stock that will have no voting power. The net effect will over time preserve the roughly two-thirds majority that CEO and co-founder Larry Page, co-founder Sergey Brin and Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt have over Google’s proxy voting structure.

Shareholders expressed their opinion with their wallets, sending the price of Google shares down by more than four percent on a day when the broader NASDAQ exchange was down by only one percent. The drop reduced Google’s market capitalization by nearly $8.6 billion, which is not a trivial amount, even for a company with a market cap north of $200 billion.

At least one shareholder advisory firm, Philadelphia-based Egan-Jones, has come out strongly in opposition to the plan. “We strongly oppose governance structures, such as currently exists at Google and as proposed, in which the holders of one class of common stock have voting rights with fewer votes per share,” the firm said.

Also on the record in opposition? CalSTRS, the $145 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which owns $400 million worth of Google shares, told Reuters that it’s not happy about the proposal and intends to let Google know about it.

You can expect more fireworks from the likes of Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass-Lewis after Google files its preliminary proxy statement, which will contain a lot more detail about the plan, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which it said it will do sometime this week.

In the end, however, even shareholders as large as CalSTRS will have little they can do but vote against the proposal at Google’s next shareholder meeting. The proxy authority Page, Brin and Schmidt already have ensures that the measure will pass. Part of the deal of investing in Google when it first came public in 2004, was putting a lot of faith in management, as the company reminded shareholders this week.

That includes those moments when it puts money and time into seemingly weird things like self-driving cars and computerized eyewear. Those things may not make sense to outsiders, Page argued during a conference call with analysts, but there’s a method to the madness, and as a shareholder you’re kind of expected to roll with it.

Clearly, many with skin in the game aren’t so sure. Sean Egan, president of Egan-Jones, spoke up for that camp in an appearance on Bloomberg TV Friday. I’ve embedded the clip below.

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