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Should Google Shoot Sergey Brin Into Space?

Google co-founder Sergey Brin plans to head to space.

According to the New York Times, Brin, an investor in Space Adventures, a Virginia-based space tourism outfit, is likely to hitch a ride on a Russian Soyuz en route to the International Space Station in 2011.

Brin and Space Adventures are set to announce the trip on Wednesday.

Now we've all seen adventuresome tech titans before. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison can often be found racing on the high seas. Virgin's Richard Branson also is fascinated with space tourism. But Brin's trip to space may be a different deal entirely because there are shareholders involved. What happens to Google if Brin's space flight doesn't go well?

It's a morbid thought, but the question is worth asking. And Google puts the following in its SEC risk factor statements:

Our future success depends in a large part upon the continued service of key members of our senior management team. In particular, our CEO, Eric Schmidt, and our founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are critical to the overall management of Google as well as the development of our technology, our culture and our strategic direction. All of our executive officers and key employees are at-will employees, and we do not maintain any key-person life insurance policies. The loss of any of our management or key personnel could seriously harm our business.
RealMoney's Adam Feuerstein writes (subscription required):
Reading the New York Times story on Google co-founder Sergey Brin's plans to hop aboard a Russian rocket for a trip into space raises what I think is an intriguing dilemma for Google shareholders

Namely, how would you feel about owning the stock during Brin's space mission, knowing that there is an outsized risk of something terribly wrong happening? In other words, how much of Google's value is wrapped up in Brin (and his partner Larry Page) and what would happen to Google's stock price if one or both them died?

I know this is a bit of a morbid debate, and of course, I hope Brin not only survives his sojourn into space but that he has a great time. (Don't forget to take lots of pictures.) However, he is placing himself at a greater risk of dying than your typical high-profile CEO does on a day-to-day basis.

Feuerstein then asks the investor types about their take on Brin's trip. In the end, shareholders don't have a say but it's a question worth asking. After all, star athletes sometimes have clauses to limit risky behaviorâ€"no skiing, pickup basketball games and motorcycle ridingâ€"to protect those all-important ACLs. Does Brin need a similar risk-limiting clause?

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and Editorial Director of ZDNet sister site TechRepublic. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.
Credit: ZDNet