Google [GOOG] execs will be facing tough questions from Wall Street analysts this Thursday during the presentation of its Q4 2009 earnings (you can access the webcast here0.
Google's plans for China and what a pull out will mean for future earnings will be key questions.
But no matter how concerned Wall Street might become with its China policy, Google executives will not face the same pressure from investors that most other public companies face because of its ownership structure.
When Google filed for its IPO in 2004, it said it would use a dual stock ownership structure that gave shares owned by key insiders with most of the voting power.
This was spelled out in "Letter from the Founders" in 2004:
After the IPO, Sergey, Eric [Schmidt] and I will control 37.6% of the voting power of Google, and the executive management team and directors as a group will control 61.4% of the voting power. New investors will fully share in Google's long term economic future but will have little ability to influence its strategic decisions through their voting rights.
Other shareholders have tried to put through changes but have been rebuffed. For example, in May 2006, The Bricklayers and Trowel Trades International Pension Fund wanted one share, one vote. Its president said, "It is ironic that a company that 'builds its success on the wisdom of crowds' doesn't have a democratic shareholder structure."
It is this shareholder structure that will allow Google to make material decisions about its future without much regard for most shareholders. This is very useful in moral and ethical issues such as its decision to stop censoring in China.
It'll be interesting to see if on Thursday, Google executives offer more information on 'why now?'
Google has had many opportunities to make a stand against censorship. It is constantly under some kind of cyber attack, why use that as an excuse this time?
It's clear that there is way more to this story than has been disclosed so far.