Davos, baby! The partying at the World Economic Forum, the annual conference held in a Swiss resort town that has become synonymous with the event, was "out of control," organizer Klaus Schwab now admits. The Wall Street bosses and Beltway bandits were too busy having a ball to keep their eye on it, even as the economy lurched towards the abyss. This strikes me as revisionist history; the Times reported on the nervous mood at this year's Davos So who kept the event festive?Why, Google did, according to Davos party correspondent Meghan Asha, the sometimes girlfriend of TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington, who got her in. Google's affair included Norman Jay, a British house-music DJ. There you have it: Larry and Sergey are at fault for distracting the world's best and brightest from preventing the meltdown we now face. If Schwab is serious about keeping thing's serious at the next WEF, we recommend disinviting Page and Brin. And Arrington and Asha.
Larry, Sergey, and Eric have a fighter jet, and you don't. They also have a sweet place to park it: Moffett Field, the airstrip closest to the heart of Silicon Valley. Even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has to get chauffeured down to San Jose to board his private plane. Remind us, how did the Googlers get such a sweet deal?Last year, Google struck a $144 million deal to lease land from Nasa's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, for future office space. Separately, but not coincidentally, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt, through a company called H211 LLC, struck a deal with Nasa to lease a hangar at Moffett Field for their growing fleet of private jets. Why on earth, or in space, did the Googlers get parking privileges at Moffett? Nasa and Google came up with a great spin: The jets would be available to fly scientific missions. Larry and Sergey got to geek out, thinking their party plans served a higher purpose — while saving hours commuting to and from SJC or SFO. One small hitch, Miguel Helft reports in Bits: Using the party planes for scientific missions required tinkering with their electronics. And changing anything about the planes required new FAA certifications. This may explain why Larry and Sergey pulled their party plane from a recent Nasa mission. We know it wasn't out for repairs — around the same time, they used it to ferry guests to and from Gavin Newsom's wedding. Hence the Dornier fighter jet, which is deemed an "experimental" plane, and which will now satisfy H211's space-mission duties. But that leaves the Googlers and Nasa in a rather unsatisfying position. When the Googlejets were flying for Nasa, they had a reasonable excuse for parking them at Moffett Field. But the purchase of a special plane to run space missions leaves Larry and Sergey's party-plane fleet used solely for civilian purposes. What are they doing at the field? Why, satisfying a quid pro quo, like they always were. This latest twist on Larry and Sergey's lease just makes it more obvious.
Nasa may be regretting a sweetheart deal it cut with Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. In exchange for a 90-year lease on land at Nasa's Ames Research Center adjacent to Google's headquarters, the space agency made a side agreement with Page and Brin to let them park their fleet of private jets at Nasa's Moffett Field. The only requirement: That the Googlers loan out their planes for space research missions as needed. But it turns out that for Larry and Sergey, partying with politicians is more important than studying space.Larry and Sergey yanked a promised Boeing 757 from their private fleet, operated by a company called "H211 LLC," just weeks before the originally scheduled reentry date of the Jules Verne ATV-1 space freighter, forcing Nasa and the European Space Agency to scramble to find an old DC-8 to be able to observe the freighter's burn up in the Earth's atmosphere as planned. What prompted the Google execs to pull the 757, and jeopardize a mission of the American and European space agencies? Days before the announcement that the 757 was no longer available for the mission, the promised jet was instead used as a limo for San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom's wedding. But it should have been ready for action after the unremarkable flights to and from Montana. In the end, the Googlers did deliver one Gulfstream V party plane to watch the Verne burn. But one hopes it was a spare, not the same one used to chauffeur Larry, Sergey and their wives to the Google Maps satellite launch in September, right around the time of the originally scheduled reentry date. Was that the event which forced the rescheduling of the Verne mission? And if so, should Nasa be relying on billionaires' personal jets, and their whims, to complete complex, dangerous and time-critical missions?
It's good to be the Googlers. Part of Larry Page and Sergey Brin's sweetheart deal to park their fleet of private jets at Nasa's Ames Research Center involves letting the space agency use their Gulfstream V for so-called "scientific experiments." What that really means: Getting a front-row seat for some really bitchin' real-time space porn. A European space freighter, full of trash from the International Space Station, was sent down from orbit to burn up in the atmosphere early this morning over the Pacific Ocean. A Gulfstream owned by H211 LLC, the flight-operating company through which Larry and Sergey own their party planes, participated in observing the event. "It was decided to postpone the reentry by three weeks so that the reentry would happen at nighttime for best viewing conditions," two researchers wrote in an article on Space.com. That raises one key question.Were Larry and Sergey aboard the Gulfstream? If so, someone ought to tell Google shareholders that the companies' cofounders were in close proximity to a flaming fireball. And someone ought to tell American taxpayers that Nasa is now scheduling its missions around the viewing requirements of loopy billionaires. (Illustration by the European Space Agency)
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is running for higher office again, so it was time for another wedding. The latest bride is actress Jennifer Siebel. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were happy to lend the Google party plane to ferry guests from the Bay Area, so apparently no hard feelings about that whole San Francisco-wide Wi-Fi thing.
South of the City and hard by the shores of San Francisco Bay, Genentech rarely attracts the attention of the founders of flashy Internet startups as they drive past its offices on the way to the airport. But the biotech company's longtime CEO, Art Levinson, is an integral part of the Silicon Valley scene, serving on the boards of both Google and Apple. That's why Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche's move to buy the 44 percent of Genentech it doesn't already own for a price north of $38 billion could have reverbations well beyond the world of automated pipetting systems.
Lefty think tanks Essential Action and the Institute for Policy Studies have a new study out titled “High Flyers: How Private Jet Travel is Straining the System, Warming the Planet and Costing You Money." It implies some not-so-nice things about jet owners and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin — even if they are left-leaning, Prius-driving friends of Bono. According to the report, private jets negatively impact:
Life inside the Googleplex already resembles a daycare center, with its primary colors, bouncy exercise balls, and free food. But if you're a parent working at Google, daycare has become a nightmare. As recently as last July, Google advertised its Kinderplex child-care center as a perk, though the rates it charged weren't much below the market price. The reality: Googlers haven't been able to get their kids into the Kinderplex, thanks to a long waiting list, and the facility is now closing, being replaced by overpriced facilities designed at the behest of Susan Wojcicki, the multimillionaire sister-in-law of Google cofounder Sergey Brin and mother of four. Google employee-parents are up in arms — not over the price hike itself, but over the way the decision came down from on high.
Google's announcement today of a massive campus expansion was inevitable. Having taken over every last scrap of office park around it not occupied by neighbor Intuit, Google is expanding the Mountain View Googleplex to the west — and, more controversially, to the east, on land owned but poorly used by Nasa. Ignore the happy talk about Google and Nasa's scientific partnerships; those are an obvious fig leaf to cover the use of public land by a private entity. (Let's not even get started on Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt's sweetheart deal to park their party plane on Nasa grounds.) Google has grown to be a powerful employer in the Bay Area, and its wealthy executives donate freely to local politicians, so we should hardly expect the powers that be to stop it. What's good for Google is good for America, or so we'll be told.
For a while it looked like Google had successfully killed the Microsoft-Yahoo merger with its promise to pump up the profits of Yahoo's search results. So perhaps you'll forgive Google cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page for a little crankiness now that talks between Yahoo and Microsoft are on again. Asked about Microsoft's plans to buy Yahoo's search business for a rumored $21 billion, Page told reporters in the U.K. he's tired of talking about the deal and would like them to stop asking about it: "If we're focused on what the other companies are doing we won't make much progress." The Financial Times reports that Page and Brin even complained that the "horse race" between Google, Microsoft and Yahoo "was unhealthy for the development of the Internet." It was much easier when no one was paying attention to Google, wasn't it, Larry and Sergey?
Proud Google CEO and father figure Eric Schmidt looks on as Sergey Brin and Larry Page announce their undying love for each other in the wake of the California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. We kid! Or fantasize, what have you. But we couldn't resist when our tipster pointed out how the young founders' outfits matched a little too well while speaking at a Google Zeitgeist event. Can you suggest a better caption? Do so in the comments, and the winning one will become the new headline on this post. Friday's winner: Torley, for "Our hero travels back in time to star in Breakfast Club 2." (Photo by Joi Ito)
Disgraced stock analyst Henry Blodget has found a new reason to fawn over the Valley's billionaires: Jerry Yang, Steve Jobs, and Larry and Sergey pay themselves $1 salaries. Hank, haven't you heard that there's a crisis in Social Security? The $1 salary is the perfect combination of tax dodge and publicity stunt. Jerry, Steve, and the Google boys pay 6 cents of their buck towards Social Security, and a penny for Medicare. Those taxes aren't charged on investment income — the kind generated when a founder sells his shares. "It would be nice if we started to see the same gesture from chief executives in the rest of corporate America," writes Blodget. Sure, if you want to make sure the rest of us get nothing when we retire.
In which Wikipedia's chief non-expert Jimmy Wales worries that Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be able to read their instant messages, talks dirty about broadband infrastructure, and says his "Google killer" startup Wikia needs to make him enough money so he can buy a jet where he and Canadian girlfriend Rachel Marsden can have even more sex. Friends claim that Wales, worried Marsden would leak the chats, threatened her with blackmail charges over the transcripts, and talked about jail time and deportation back to Canada for her. That got her so upset she sent copies to one or more friends. They've landed in our inbox. Good job, Jimbo. The best bits:
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin collectively own 57,806,476 shares of Google stock. One month ago, Google's stock was trading at $710.84 — putting Larry and Sergey's combined holdings at $41.1 billion. That'll buy you a few party planes, right? Not so fast. In the past month, Google's stock has fallen almost every day, with the biggest drop coming today. The one-day loss for Larry and Sergey? Almost $2.5 billion, bringing their total losses to $10 billion in just under a month. I guess I won't complain about the $120 I lost at the poker tables with Jason Calacanis last month. (Photo by AP/Ben Margot)
The Google founders' Gulfstream V party plane — quick plane-spotting tip: the Gulfstream V has six windows; the IV only has five — took off on a scientific mission to study the Quadrantid meteor shower Thursday. Larry, Sergey and Eric, you may remember, got permission to park their jets at NASA's Moffett Field for the bargain basement price of $1.3 million plus allowing NASA to use the planes for "science missions." This is the first one we know about. Wait, just how many jets do they have?