Unfortunately, We Now Have To Speculate About What's Wrong With Google CEO Larry Page...

larry page

Photo: Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Google CEO Larry Page has a mysterious ailment that caused him to miss last week’s shareholder meeting.Google says this ailment will also cause Larry to miss (or at least not speak at) Google’s big developer conference this week and Google’s earnings call in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, Larry Page last posted to his Google+ account on May 25th, nearly a month ago.

Google’s explanation of the situation is merely that Larry has “lost his voice.”

Larry’s own explanation to his Google troops is that there is “nothing seriously wrong.”

And we all obviously hope that nothing is seriously wrong.

But coming as it does on the heels of the tragic sickness and death of Steve Jobs, which was preceded by Apple’s absurdly vague and sugar-coated statements along the way, everyone can be forgiven for worrying that it’s deja vu all over again.

And, as inappropriate and intrusive as it might seem to be, everyone can also be forgiven for wondering what might be wrong with Larry.

Google could just tell us what’s wrong with Larry, so we wouldn’t have to speculate. But, for some reason, Google is choosing not to do that. So we have no choice but to speculate.

In fact, given Larry’s importance to Google and the tech industry and Google shareholders, it would be irresponsible not to speculate. Because if it turns out that something is seriously wrong with Larry–or if what is currently not serious becomes serious–we will all feel like idiots for not having learned our lesson from Steve and Apple.

(Not that having the full details about Steve’s situation would have changed things. He still would have died way too young.  But at least the time and energy devoted to the perfectly reasonable speculation about Steve’s health could have been spent on more important things.)

I think Google should tell us exactly what’s wrong with Larry. Given Larry’s importance to the company, I think it’s the fair and right thing to do.

But given that Google has decided not to do this, here’s some of the early speculation…

Larry Page is only 39. He appears to be in robust health. He is “prematurely grey,” which some armchair physicians worry is a possible sign of a thyroid problem, possibly thyroid cancer.

“Thyroid cancer,” though, would presumably qualify as a “serious” problem. Unless it was very minor thyroid cancer. So there is some concern that it might be that.

Lots of people are wondering whether Larry smokes. I doubt he smokes (he seems to be a health nut), but this would also be helpful information to know.

Amir Efrati and Joann Lublin of the Wall Street Journal talked to a doctor and came back with three other things that might be wrong with Larry.  Encouragingly, they’re all much less serious than thyroid cancer:

  • “acute laryngitis, a viral infection that causes inflammation of the vocal cords and requires resting one’s voice for at least week or two,”
  • “Muscle tension dysphonia, which occurs when the muscles around the larynx, or voice box, are too tight and causes a person to use excess tension while speaking. Voice therapy is often required for such an ailment.”
  • “Some people who naturally produce an unusual-sounding or hoarse voice may develop benign lesions that grow on the vocal cord… Surgery is sometimes required to remove the growths.”

If the problem is any of those things, we’re mystified as to why Google won’t tell us that.

Is there something embarrassing or uber-private about having “acute laryngitis”?

Again, we very much hope that there isn’t anything seriously wrong with Larry. We hope he gets well soon. In the meantime, unfortunately, we’ll just have to speculate.

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