New Google CFO a good fit for search giant’s mobile push

June 26, 2008, 6:36 PM UTC
Google’s new multicultural CFO Patrick Pichette ran Bell Canada’s finances for two years. Image: Bell Canada

By Yi-Wyn Yen

Finding a finance guru to fit into Google’s quirky culture isn’t easy. Google has spent nearly a year looking for a chief financial officer who not only can keep up with the company’s expanding growth opportunities, like mobile communications, but can also roll with offbeat offices and co-founders who invest in space exploration.

But it appears that Google (GOOG) has found the right person in Patrick Pichette, the president of operations of Bell Canada. The search giant announced on Wednesday that Pichette, 45, will replace its longtime CFO, George Reyes, in August.

Pichett’e background certainly should be a nice addition to Google’s mobile efforts. He is a 20-year veteran of the telecommunications industry who helped migrate Bell Canada, the country’s largest phone company, from a traditional wired landline outift to an Internet protocol network. Pichette has run the company’s network operations for the past 3 1/2 years, and has helped lower costs by more than a billion dollars.

“Telecommunications companies traditionally are pretty hierarchical companies. Patrick took that away and made us much more customer-focused. It was a huge change that substantially improved productivity, ” says Michael Sabia, the CEO of Bell Canada Enterprises, which is being sold to three buyers, including private-equity shop Providence Equity Partners and Canada’s largest pension fund, for $51 billion.

Sabia says Pichette, a former Rhodes Scholar and McKinsey consultant, also has the personality to work at Google. “He’s kind of a free spirit who has eclectic interests,” Sabia says. For spring break last year, Pichette took his three teenage kids to an African village in Zambia to live for two weeks. “This wasn’t a safari or some tourists visiting. It was a village where people there didn’t speak English and there wasn’t running water. They spent two weeks on the floor. Patrick brought his family there to hang out and figure out how to make things go,” Sabia says. “I told him he needed to get his head examined.”

Pichette was not made available for comment by either Google or Bell Canada.

Pichette’s new job will certainly be much cushier. Google is paying the new CFO an annual salary of $450,000, which is the standard pay for its top executives, according to an SEC filing. The company will also pay him a $500,000 signing bonus and another $500,000 after he finishes six months. He’s also eligible for a bonus that’s worth 150% above his salary. Finally, he’ll receive 11,112 shares of common stock and 5,556 shares of restricted stock.

Reyes, who announced his intention to retire in August, 2007, will stay on to report Google’s second quarter earnings. He’s sold more than $200 million shares, according to regulatory filings, since the company went public in 2004.