Google Founders' Interview May Raise Regulatory Problems

Google Inc.'s (search) highly anticipated IPO faced a possible stumbling block Thursday with the release of a Playboy interview that the online search engine leader's co-founders gave just before the company filed its plans raise $3 billion with its stock offering.

In the seven-page interview, Larry Page (search) and Sergey Brin (search) discuss the company's rapid growth and even brag about how Google's search engine has helped save people's lives.

The interview, contained in a Playboy issue delivered to some subscribers Thursday, threatens to delay Google's initial public offering because of securities regulations restricting what executives can say while preparing to sell stock for the first time.

Google needs the Securities and Exchange Commission (search) to approve its IPO registration statement before it can complete the IPO, a process that will be complicated by the Playboy interview, predicted Michael Zuppone, a former SEC attorney.

"I don't want to rain on their parade, but I think this interview is going to cause regulatory concern. There could be consequences," said Zuppone, now an attorney for Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in New York.

The SEC sometimes imposes a "cooling off" period when a company involved in an IPO releases any information that deviates from its IPO registration statement. A similar situation developed before the IPO of (search) recently.

Mountain View-based Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Playboy spokeswoman Theresa Hennessey said the magazine conducted the interview with Page and Brin on April 22 — a week before Google filed its registration statement.

But Zuppone doubts the timing of the interview will matter to the SEC because Page and Brin knew an IPO filing was imminent on April 22. Google could have also required Playboy to delay the interview's publication until the IPO was completed, Zuppone said.

The latest twist in Google's closely watched IPO occurred just a few hours before the company was prepared to finish the registration process for their Dutch auction (search), an unorthodox method that's being used to sell 25.7 million Google shares.