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Google founders planning to sell shares

Page, Brin could net $1.2b apiece if each sells 7.2m

SAN FRANCISCO --Google Inc. cofounders 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 $1 billion apiece at current market prices.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google disclosed the intentions of Page and Brin, both 31, late yesterday in documents filed with the 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 $1.86, or 1.1 percent, to close at $169.40 yesterday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

Based on that price, Page and Brin would each pocket $1.2 billion from their planned stock sales while Schmidt, 49, would collect $373 million.

The stock's trading price has ranged from $95.96 to $201.60 per share since the IPO was completed Aug. 19 at $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 $5 billion as of yesterday.

Schmidt would still own 12.2 million shares -- currently worth more than $2 billion.

Page, Brin, and Schmidt plan to dispose of their stock through automated trading programs -- a common tactic used by corporate executives 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 yesterday.

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.

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