Should We Be Worried About Google's CEO?

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Larry Page, Google's CEO, missed the company's annual meeting last week, and has already announced he's going to miss two upcoming big appointments for the company, prompting many to wonder about the state of his health. 

Google is trying to play it cool, saying that nothing is wrong with Page and that things are running normally. At the annual shareholder's meeting at the company's headquarters that Page missed, Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said Page "lost his voice" and "can't do any public speaking engagements for the time being." The company's already announced Page won't be speaking at the company's annual conference for software developers next week, and won't be speaking during their second quarter earnings conference call in mid-July.

Because of the way Apple handled Steve Jobs' deteriorating health, people are starting to wonder if things are on the up and up. Missing one or two appointments over a few days because of going hoarse is reasonable, but multiple things over the span of several weeks? 

The Wall Street Journal's Amir Efrati and Joann S. Lublin spoke to a doctor who offered three potential things that could be wrong with Page, based on the vague "lost his voice" excuse Schmidt gave: "acute laryngitis, which is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the vocal cords and requires resting one's voice for at least week or two;" "muscle tension dysphonia, which occurs when the muscles around the larynx, or voice box, are too tight and causes a person to use excess tension while speaking;" or "benign lesions that grow on the vocal cord." 

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Business Insider's Henry Blodget thinks it could be thyroid cancer. Page is 39, in robust health, but also prematurely grey, which "some armchair physicians worry is a possible sign of a thyroid problem, possibly thyroid cancer," he argues. He says that some people are wondering if Page smokes, but Blodget figures he doesn't because Page "seems to be a health nut."

In an email to employees Page assured that "there is nothing seriously wrong with me," according to AllThingsD's Kara Swisher.

Basically everyone agrees that if it's not a big issue, Google should just come out and disclose what exactly is ailing Page. The Journal spoke to Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior associate dean at Yale School of Management, who said Page is "not entitled to his privacy,'' because he's the CEO of a publicly traded company. "We need to know if it [his voice] is imperiled," he said. 

Blodget argues that because of what happened with Steve Jobs "it would be irresponsible not to speculate. Because if it turns out that something is seriously wrong with Larry--or if what is currently not serious becomes serious--we will all feel like idiots for not having learned our lesson from Steve and Apple."


Swisher notes that Google's declined to expand on Page's condition "despite what is likely to be increasing investor concern." But as she points out, Google's stock is doing just fine, and actually went up six points on Friday. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.