Don't confuse Google's stock split with the dot.com bubble era splits that were all about "lowering" the price of shares and designed to lure more retail investors (read: suckers) to the party. Existing Google A shares split in half but today's split isn't about price, it's about control.
Specifically, the split marks the culmination of a two-year process designed to give founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin greater control of the search colossus. Page and Brin currently own 55.7% of Google B shares, which have 10 voting rights vs. 1 for existing A shares. After today's split, owners of the existing A shares will own a new Class C shares which have zero voting rights at Google's annual shareholder meeting.
Page and Brin already had effective control of the company -- other shareholders overwhelmingly voted against this split at Google's last shareholder meeting but the co-founders' votes overwhelmed the opposition -- and now have eliminated any pretense of shareholder rights.
"If they tried this three years ago it wouldn't have happened," says Howard Lindzon, chairman of StockTwits. Page and Brin are "in a high period of trust...and earned the respect of a lot of people."
Perhaps Page and Brin were making a preemptive strike against activists like Carl Icahn, who has recently targeted tech giants Apple and eBay. More likely, Page and Brin were focused on Mark Zuckerberg, who controls 57% of Facebook via special voting right share that make the social networking giant a "personal dictatorship," according to Slate's Matthew Iglesias.
In recent months, it's become clear that Facebook and Google are in a technical "arms race" of sorts to see which company will own the next big thing. Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $16 billion and virtual reality maker Oculus for $2 billion while Google bought Nest Labs for $3.2 billion, launched Google Glass and has made investments in several technologies seemingly unrelated to search, including: robotics, biotech and wind turbines.
"Look at what Zuckerberg has done and what Google is doing -- they're circling the wagons around everyone -- they have a strong hand to compete with everyone," says Lindzon, who believes Google will emerge victorious. "They have the best data, the smartest people and really good food at headquarters if you can get in. It's hard to bet against that group of people."
A longtime shareholder, Lindzon maintains Google is the equivalent of a "tech ETF" and the best way to bet on future innovation. That said, he's not particularly enthused by the stock split. "I want to watch what happens," he says, echoing the sentiments of many market watchers in the wake of Google's split, which resulted in more than 330 million of the new non-voting Class C shares hitting the market today.
The C shares will trade under the symbol "GOOG" while the existing A shares will be renamed "GOOGL" and subsequently removed from Nasdaq indexes when the next rebalancing occurs on June 23, Bloomberg reports. The S&P 500, meanwhile, will include both the A and C shares in its ranks, meaning it'll now be the S&P 501, adding another wrinkle to an already complex situation.
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