Everybody Wants to Break Up Google

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is trying to nip criticism in the bud this morning.

Don Harrison -- the company's Deputy General Counsel -- posted a compelling blog post this morning, arguing that the world's leading search engine should be able to acquire needle-moving companies in the future without being slapped down by antitrust regulators.

It's becoming a problem for Big G these days.

I addressed the matter on Monday, suggesting that Google initiate a dividend policy to begin distributing some of the $33.4 billion in cash and marketable securities collecting cobwebs on its balance sheet.

After all, what else is Google going to do with that money?

"Buyouts," I asked rhetorically. "Fuhgeddaboudit! The antitrust bartender cut you off a round ago. Why else has it taken this long to pull off the $700 million acquisition of ITA Software? Why did Groupon supposedly ask for a stiff breakup fee before that potential purchase went bust?"

The deal to buy online travel specialist ITA has been in a holding pattern for months. The deal for Groupon reportedly fell apart when the social coupon giant asked for a substantial termination fee -- just in case regulators nix the deal. If that really was the deal breaker, that tells you everything you need to know. Neither side believed that the deal would clear regulatory hurdles. Groupon wanted to be paid for being in limbo for a year. Google wasn't comfortable footing the insurance.

Harrison's post this morning is a direct response to a column in this morning's Washington Post. Steven Pearlstein has a beef with "allowing Google to buy its way into new markets and new technologies, particularly when the firms being bought already have a dominant position in their respective market niches."

Pearlstein also argues that Google buying up-and-comers prevents its competitors from snapping up those same companies to mount an attack.

Harrison counters with Google's purchase of DoubleClick. Around the same time, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) snapped up Right Media as Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) bought the even larger aQuantive.

He also points out how smaller deals have been beneficial for consumers. Harrison singles out Keyhole in 2004 (which evolved into Google Earth) and the 2005 deal for Android. Few will argue that Android's arrival hasn't kept Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) honest and everyone else hungry.

Pearlstein has no problem with Google's organic growth, earned fair and square. However, Harrison fires back by reminding everyone that Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) acquired Siebel, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) snapped up Audible and Zappos, and Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) picked up Macromedia. The world didn't stop spinning when a tech giant bought a niche leader. It won't stop if the Justice Department clears ITA Software for landing in the coming months.

Should Google be free to buy whatever it wants? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple, Adobe Systems, and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Adobe Systems. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't calling for a search engine search party, but he may as well. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2010, at 2:18 PM, Henry3Dogg wrote:

    Project forward. A society where everything is paid for by watching adverts.

    And one company controls all the adverts.

    Aaaaaahhhhhh !!!!!!!

    What was that disingenuous platitude that Eric was spouting about creating Android because he didn't want a world where one company made all the phones.

    So now he claims that Android is the biggest. Surely he he will now break it up?

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