Now that hundreds of Google
It's certainly a risk that young programmers, suddenly worth in excess of $5 million, would prefer the beaches of Bali, the mountains of Nepal, or the strip malls of Bakersfield over the daily grind. Yesterday came word of a high-profile departure at the company. Evan Williams, founder of Pyra Labs, which launched its extraordinarily popular Blogger service in 1999, announced on Monday that he would be leaving Google by the end of the week. Google purchased Pyra Labs in February 2003. Appropriately enough, Williams announced his departure on his blog.
In his farewell, Williams noted that there was no great conflict with Google management precipitating his departure -- he just wants to take some time off and perhaps start a new company. He noted that Google management had been "awesome." He's just ready for new things. Ah, the privileges of fabulously wealthy youth.
This has to be the fear at Google, though. It's easy to take Williams at his word -- he just wants to enjoy what life has afforded him. I think that's completely wonderful, but if you're Google, you have to look around the offices and say, "OK, who's next to leave?" Or worse, "Who's going to lose the hunger that made this place what it is?"
People come and go in companies all the time. This shouldn't be made out to be more than it is: It was a known risk. But with iconoclastic intellectual property companies, there is always a danger that after a dislocative change -- positive or negative -- employees will begin to look at their work as no longer being part of the "cause" and more like "what they do during the day when they're not learning Tibetan dance."
As an aside that once again proves that Bill Miller's definition of value certainly isn't in any dictionary, his world-beating Legg Mason Value Trust disclosed that it has taken a 6% stake in Google. This continues a long-established pattern of Miller's group seeing value in places where other value investors see none, including long spectacularly successful investments in Dell
I'll admit being baffled by the purchase, but Miller's rationale is completely simple: He believes that the market is underestimating how much, or how long, Google will grow, and what its future cash flows will look like. Yes, Google has a P/E of 300-plus. Its price to sales exceeds 25. Miller and his team think that this underestimates its true intrinsic value. Very, very interesting.
Any day now Microsoft Word is going to quit flagging the word "Google" for spell check. Or maybe not. Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this article.
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