You know it’s a slow news day when news sites and bloggers everywhere are dishing about the Google Jet co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page use to scoot around the world, or, as Danny Sullivan wrote, to “sales and business meetings.”
Apparently, for $1.3 million a year, Page and Brin can “park their customized wide-body Boeing 767-200, as well as two other jets used by top Google executives, on Moffett Field, an airport run by NASA that is generally closed to private aircraft.”
That was from The New York Times, but if I didn’t know any better I would have thought I was reading a transcription of Robin Leach’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Seriously, why is this news?
What does this have to do with search, applications or the Internet? It doesn’t, but it’s just the sort of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) case Google doesn’t need to rise up and bite it in the tail.
Apparently, folks in the area are annoyed that Google gets to park a jet there even though NASA agreed to let Page and Brin use the field in exchange for the right to carry scientists and their equipment on Google planes for research.
They suspect the Moffett Field folks are indulging Google so they can cash in. Apparently, private jet users who aren’t from Google have been unsuccessful in their attempts to pay their way onto the runways there. SF Chronicle has the best NIMBY characterization.
It’s the classic favoritism through capitalism formula. Sympathizers of the NIMBY contingent would put this on par with Paris Hilton getting out of jail early. Only Brin and Page haven’t committed any crimes that we know of, so worst-case scenario, this is just plain old preferential treatment with a hefty price tag.
Nevertheless, negative press like this has to sting a bit. As the Times and so many others commenting on this story have pointed out, Brin and Page have gone through great pains to remain under the radar and cultivate a perception of themselves and the company they created as distinctly not evil, a joke at Microsoft’s expense.
In other words, we would be shocked if Brin or Page got pies in their faces like Mr. Gates did some years ago. These men facilitate humanitarian causes (see today’s Lunar X Prize news), search for missing persons and do many things to tout the greening of IT. This is all goodness. Ave Maria.
The problem with their immaculate positioning is that they have to be squeaky clean to the public, not just legally, but ethically and morally pristine. In this day and age of sophisticated technology and speedy media, this is a nearly impossible feat.
I wonder if Google execs today cursed their decision not to pull the trigger on Salesforce.com or some other big buy today. That might have subdued this PR mess a bit.