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Google share options...

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Google share options...

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Date: November 18, 2007 06:04PM

Katie Hafner in San Francisco
November 17, 2007
Sydney Morning Herald

BONNIE BROWN was fresh from a nasty divorce in 1999, living with her sister and uncertain of her future. On a lark, she answered an ad for an in-house masseuse at Google, then a Silicon Valley start-up with 40 employees. She was offered the part-time job, which started out at $US450 a week but included a pile of Google stock options that she figured might never be worth a penny.

After five years of kneading engineers' backs, Brown retired, cashing in most of her stock options, which were worth millions of dollars. To her delight, the shares she held onto have continued to balloon in value.

When Google's stock topped $US700 ($790) a share this month, it was not just outside shareholders who were smiling. According to documents filed this month with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Google employees and former employees are holding options they can cash in worth about $US2.1 billion. And current employees are sitting on stock and unvested options, or options they cannot immediately cash in, that together have a value of about $US4.1 billion.

Although no one keeps an official count of Google millionaires, it is estimated that 1000 people each have more than $US5 million worth of Google shares from stock grants and stock options.

One founder, Larry Page, has stock worth $US20 billion. The other, Sergey Brin, has slightly less at $US19.6 billion, according to Equilar, a Californian executive compensation research firm. Three Google senior vice-presidents - David Drummond, the chief legal officer; Shona Brown, who runs business operations; and Jonathan Rosenberg, who oversees product management - together hold $US160 million worth of Google stock and options.