The absence of Larry Page—CEO of Google-parent company Alphabet—from the company’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday didn’t go unnoticed. Senior management fielded multiple inquiries about Mr. Page, with one shareholder calling it “disgraceful” that the cofounder and CEO wasn’t in attendance to answer questions.
His absence isn’t a new development. Mr. Page hasn’t attended a shareholder meeting since 2016, the year after Google reorganized its corporate structure into the holding company Alphabet and “other bets.” But recently his silence has become more noticed as concerns about Google’s workplace culture, YouTube’s content moderation woes and Google’s industry dominance grow louder.
In a series of 13 proposals, Alphabet shareholders pushed for more accountability from company management in areas like corporate governance, the company’s policies on sexual harassment and rights for contract workers. At one point, a current Google employee spoke passionately against the company’s previously reported efforts to build a censored search engine in China. All 13 stockholder proposals were voted down. Mr. Page and cofounder Sergey Brin (who was also not in attendance at the meeting) together hold just over 51% of the company’s voting stock. That gives Alphabet’s founders a strong tool for shutting down activism from employees and shareholders.