Instead of a coronation, Google's IPO was a four-month cycle of recrimination, stress and not a little zaniness that began with its filing of pre-IPO paperwork in April and reached its peak in New York. Asked at the Waldorf about earnings prospects, Brin turned off his powerful audience by joking, "If I tell you, you'll just ask again," Bard remembered.
"That New York road show was much more casual than it should have been," said Lise Buyer, then Google vice president for business optimization, a title chosen in 2003 to obscure her real role of planning the then-secret IPO (though you could say her last name was a tip-off to her role).
"About 80 percent of what we tried to do before was to fix problems in the IPO process. The other 20 percent was us trying to do things differently just because we were different. And that's not a good idea."
It's easy to argue that no IPO was ever crazier than the Google offering. Money managers and pundits claimed Google's split-adjusted value was everywhere between $15 and $80, leading to the big price cut. And leading the skepticism from the press, The New York Times reported that tech insiders view the deal as a sucker's bet. Then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicted Google would trade flat for years (this, from the man who paid $2 billion for the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers last week).
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak told the Times, "I'm not buying. … Past experience leaves the taste that a few people—never ourselves—will make out the first day, but that it's not likely to appreciate a lot in the near future or maybe even the long future.''
Just when things began to quiet down, someone would break news, like Playboy's interview with Brin, Page and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The magazine featured Schmidt's explanation of the company's "Don't be evil" motto by saying evil was whatever Brin said it was. Bard's boss at Renaissance, Linda Killian, said she'd never expected in her business career to send a younger, male employee to 7-Eleven to buy a skin mag. But it really was "for the articles." Or one article, at least (not to mention the rare Playboy article to make it into a Securities and Exchange Commission filing as a potential securities law violation).
"The Playboy interview made it look like we didn't have our act together," Buyer said, explaining that the interview was done in March, with little thought to when it would be released. "They got played by Playboy, but they shouldn't have done the interview within six months of when they did.''