Google in Tough Spot With CEO’s Uncertain Health

Pretty much everything you need to know can be found by simply going to Google’s homepage.

But when it comes to the recent health concerns of CEO Larry Page, information has been scarce at best. Before rumors spin out of control, it may be time for Google to exercise some transparency on behalf of its investors.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Page, the billionaire co-founder of Google, missed the company’s annual meeting on June 21, and the company said he will miss two other important engagements over the next several weeks. All that has been revealed thus far is that Page has lost his voice.

Since then, Google has given no further information about Page's problems, but speculation around Wall Street leads many to believe that the 39-year-old executive may have a more serious medical condition.

Google says Page still continues to run the company, which he confirmed in an e-mail to employees, writing "there is nothing seriously wrong with me.”

The growing speculation leaves Google’s communications team in an awkward predicament. Despite health being a private matter for most, the CEO of a billion dollar company is a public figure, and how his company is being run and whether or not the business of Google is in any trouble needs to be addressed. If Page does indeed continue to miss important events, rumors will mount and Google will have no choice but to prepare responses to media, consumer and investor inquires.

“There is a fine line between an individual’s right to privacy and the responsibilities one has as a CEO of a widely owned major company such as Google,” says Gene Marbach, VP of Makovsky + Co., who has more than 30 years of experience in investor relations and corporate communications. From a PR standpoint, Marbach believes Google’s communications team needs to let investors know something sooner than later.

“As a public company, Google’s investors do need to know the status of the CEO’s health, particularly given the fact that there has been so much speculation in the air since the news broke. The quality of a company’s management team is a crucial factor in making investment decisions and, as such, the matter is material. In addition, investors need to be reassured that the company possesses deep bench strength and a succession plan should this be a long-term issue.”

Google is not renowned for compulsive sharing of its inner workings, but in this case it may have to buck its institutional tendencies.

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson

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