who-owns-google

Who Owns Google? Under The Hood Of The Tech Giant That Conquered The Web

The most prominent institutional shareholders are BlackRock, Fidelity (entities affiliated with it), and the Vanguard Group. Larry Page and Sergey Brin together have 51% of the voting power. Then we have other individual shareholders comprising John Doerr, venture capitalist and early investor in Google, and Sundar Pichai, the current company’s CEO.

Google’s Class A, Class B, and Class C stocks: Not all shares are born equal

When a company decides to issue equity in the form of common stocks, it can do so in several types depending on the limitations that the owners of the company want to give to voting powers.

Google’s Class B Common Stocks

In Google’s case, each holder of Class B common stock is entitled to ten votes per share. Class B common stockholders have ten votes for each director nominee and ten votes for each of the proposals to be voted on.

We can define the Class B stocks as on common shares on steroids. In fact, they empower those who own them to keep control of the company. Page and Brin, Google’s founders wanted to keep as much power of the future decisions of the company they leveraged on Class B Common Stocks to have a higher weight on the company’s decisions.

Google’s Class A Common Stocks

Google’s Class A common stocks are entitled to vote. Each share of Class A common stock is entitled to one vote for each director nominee and one vote for each of the proposals to be voted on.

Google’s Class C Common Stocks

Holders of Class C capital stock have no voting power as to any items of business that will be voted on at the Annual Meeting. Those do confer ownership in the company and the right to be paid based on dividends and the company’s stock appreciation.

Who are Google’s Directors and Executive Officers?

google-executive-directors

This list is worth looking like those are the people in charge of several “corporate functions.”

Board of directors

During 2017, the Board of Directors was composed of thirteen directors with the following committees:

1. an Audit Committee, whose primary function is to oversee accounting and financial reporting processes

2. a Leadership Development and Compensation Committee, the purpose is to oversee the compensation programs.

3. a Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee, the main purpose is to assist the Board of Directors in identifying individuals qualified to become members of the Board of Directors

4. an Executive Committee, serves as an administrative committee of the Board of Directors to act upon and facilitate the consideration by senior management and the Board of Directors of certain high-level business and strategic matters.

From time to time, the Board of Directors may also establish ad hoc committees to address particular matters.

google-board-of-directors

What is the compensation for those directors? While it might change we can look at compensation for 2017:

google-directors-compensations

What’s the compensation for Google’s executives?

As a multi-billion tech giants, Google’s compensations are very competitive and based on the following elements:

  • the base salary that provides a steady income to employees
  • equity awards, primarily based on the performance of each employee that will receive those awards

In assessing the compensation part, Google took into account (at least for 2017) the following “peers companies:”

Amazon.com, HP, Oracle Corporation, Apple, Intel Corporation, QUALCOMM, Cisco Systems, International Business Machines (IBM), The Walt Disney Company, eBay, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook.

Bellow the table summarizing the compensations of the top executives at Google:

google-compensations

We can break down all the compensations in base salary, bonuses, stock awards, option awards, non-equity incentives plans, and non-qualified deferred compensation earnings.

In terms of salary both Page and Brin get a symbolic $1. Eric Schmidt as a technical advisor got $1,250,000 together with other compensations for a total of $4,726,592. Current CEO, Sundar Pichai earns $650,000 of base salary in 2017. To notice Pichai received almost $200 million in stock awards in 2016. In 2017 the total compensation was $1,333,557.

What’s the difference between Stock awards and Option awards

When it comes to stock awards, they usually can get “vested” (it means exercised or monetized) at a certain date. For instance, we can see how in 2017 both Eric Schmidt and Sundar Pichai “vested” millions of dollars of stock awards:

google-options-vested-2017

Former Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt in 2017 vested over forty million dollars in stocks, while new CEO, Sundar Pichai vested over a hundred-thirty million dollars in stock awards.

When it comes to option awards the executive or employee that receives it will have a fixed price to buy the stock at a specified date:

option-awards-2017

For instance, in this table that shows the unvested (not yet exercised) stock options held by Schmidt and Pichai by December 2017, you notice the so-called exercise price.

That means, for instance, that in 2021 Eric Schmidt can purchase 181,840 Google’s stocks at $306.61. Just to put things in context at the time of this writing the price of Google’s stock (Alphabet Class A stocks) is $1,225.42. Thus, if in 2021 the stock of Google will depend on those levels, Schmidt will earn on the difference between the exercise price and the current price when options get vested. 

I suggest you look at our Financial Options simple guide:

What Is a Financial Option? The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Financial Options

Google ownership structure before its 2004 IPO

google-owners-2004

As defined in the proxy statement before Google’s IPO percentage ownership is based on 162,550,115 shares of Class A common stock and 114,732,822 shares of Class B common stock outstanding on March 28, 2005.

At the time, just like today Brin and Page seemed to be obsessed with control and ownership. In fact, at the time both of them held over 55.6% of the voting power.

Back then the other individual investors with a consistent stake in the company were – at the time – CEO Erick Schmidt, venture capitalist John Doerr, venture capitalist Michael Moritz and Omid Kordestani, who at the time was in charge of Business Development and Sales and one of those who helped Google scale up (he closed the AOL deal).

Who owns Google now?

As of January 31, 2020, there were 300,047,170 shares of the registrant’s Class A common stock outstanding, 46,407,491 shares of the registrant’s Class B common stock outstanding.

The control of the company is still in the hands of the two co-founders, Page and Brin. If we look at the individuals owning the company we have Larr Page and Sergey Brin, which together have 51% of the voting power. Other substantial private investors comprise John Doerr (read OKR) venture capitalist and early investor in Google, and Sundar Pichai, the current company’s CEO.

The most prominent institutional shareholders (those with more than 5% of Google’s – now called Alphabet – share) are BlackRock, Fidelity (entities affiliated with it), and the Vanguard Group.

Who are Google’s top individual investors and owners?

Larry Page

Founder of Google together with Sergey Brin, Page was the inventor of the PageRank algorithm that made Google the success we know today. Director Since 1998 Larry Page, Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors since its inception in September 1998.

Sergey Brin

Founder of Google together with Larry Page. Director Since 1998 Sergey Brin, President of Alphabet, has served as a member of Google Board of Directors since its inception in September 1998.

John Doerr

One of the venture capitalist being – almost – since the beginning, John Doerr was director Since 1999 and has served as a member of Google Board of Directors since May 1999. John Doerr has been a General Partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm, since August 1980.

Sundar Pichai

Newly appointed CEO – since 2017 – he has served as a member of Google Board of Directors since 2017. He previously served as Google’s Senior Vice President of Products, from October 2014 to October 2015.

And as Google’s Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome, and Apps from March 2013 to October 2014. Since joining Google in April 2004, Sundar Pichai has held various positions, including Google’s Senior Vice President, Chrome and Apps; Senior Vice President, Chrome; and Vice President, Product Management. Prior to joining Google, Sundar worked in engineering and product management at Applied Materials, Inc., a semiconductor company, and in management consulting at McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm.

Key takeaway

Over the years, while the ownership of Google has slightly changed, one thing has remained constant, control, and ownership by its founders. Brin and Page still represent the major individual shareholders.

Also, as Google issued several kinds of common stocks, Brin and Page are the ones who – with their Class B common stocks – preserved their control over the company.

Even when back in the 2000s a “grown-up” CEO, Erick Schmidt was brought in, Brin and Page still had more than 50% of the voting power. The company has adopted several collective decision-making systems over the years. Yet Brin and Page remain in control of the future of the company.

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which target is to reach over two million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get in touch with Gennaro here

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