Google Inc co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin each plan to sell up to 7.2 million shares of their stock in the online search engine leader during the next 18 months -- divestitures that would generate windfalls of more than US$1 billion apiece at current market prices.
Mountain View-based Google disclosed the intentions of Page and Brin, both 31, late Friday in documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In the same filing, Google also revealed that its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, plans to sell 2.2 million shares of his holdings to cash in on the company's stock price, which has nearly doubled since an August initial public offering.
Google's shares gained US$1.86, or 1.1 percent, to close at US$169.40 on Friday on the NASDAQ Stock Market. Based on that price, Page and Brin would each pocket US$1.2 billion from their planned stock sales while Schmidt, 49, would collect US$373 million. The stock's trading price has ranged from US$95.96 to US$201.60 per share since the IPO was completed on Aug. 19 at US$85 per share.
Page, Brin and Schmidt, who say they run Google collectively, will retain most of their company stock. If the planned sales are completed, Page and Brin will still own about 31 million shares apiece -- stakes worth more than US$5 billion as of Friday. Schmidt would still own 12.2 million shares -- currently worth more than US$2 billion.
Page, Brin and Schmidt plan to dispose of their stock through automated trading programs -- a common tactic that corporate executives use so investors don't question the timing of their divestitures. The trio adopted the plans in mid-September, but Google didn't reveal the details until Friday.
Google disclosed the planned stock sales amid rising investor anxiety about possible sharp decline in the share price if hundreds of insiders began to cash out the holdings that they have accumulated since the popular search engine's Internet debut in 1998.
The selling restrictions on 39.1 million shares held by Google insiders were lifted Tuesday, contributing to a one-day decline of nearly 7 percent in the company's stock. Another 227 million shares will become eligible for trading between from Dec. 16 through Feb. 14.
Google also raised investor worries earlier this week by warning that its recent rapid rate of revenue growth might not continue during the current quarter.