What Do They Know That We Don’t?
Friday evening when no one was supposed to pay attention, Google announced that Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt would sell 3.2 million of his Google shares in 2013, 42% of the 7.6 million shares he owned at the end of last year—after having already sold 1.8 million shares in 2012. But why would he sell 5 million shares, about 53% of his holdings, with Google stock trading near its all-time high?
“Part of his long-term strategy for individual asset diversification and liquidity,” Google mollified us, according to the Wall Street Journal. Soothing words. Nothing but “a routine diversification of assets.”
Routine? He didn’t sell any in 2008 as the market was crashing. He didn’t sell at the bottom in early 2009. And he didn’t sell during the rest of 2009 as Google shares were soaring, nor in 2010, as they continued to soar. In 2011, he eased out of about 300,000 shares, a mere rounding error in his holdings. But in 2012, he opened the valves, and in 2013, he’d open the floodgates. So it’s not “routine.”
Liquidity, Google said. In 2012, he reaped about $1.2 billion from stock sales, and if he can sell this year’s portion at the current price, he’ll reap $2.5 billion. $3.7 billion in total. What exactly would he need that kind of liquidity for? He could buy a Boeing 787, if it ever becomes airworthy again, plus a few castles, dozens of handmade exotic cars…. And it would barely scratch the surface.