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Search engine king Google mercifully put to rest months of hype and speculation over its initial public offering by announcing today that it has informed the Securities and Exchange Commission of its intention to sell as much as $2.7 billion in common stock to outside investors. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page will retain their majority control of Google, a probable sign that the famously secretive company will keep innovating in risky new areas even as it faces up to new levels of accountability and openness.

Google hasn’t said whether it will be listed on NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange. Underwriters Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse First Boston will hand out many of the shares to elite investors, but Investor’s Business Daily, which ran one of today’s best breaking news stories on the IPO announcement, says that Google will sell at least some shares through a “Dutch auction” open to all bidders.

In Silicon Valley, many Google watchers have been rooting for an IPO for months, if not years. The hope is that a first-day stock price runup reminiscent of Netscape’s in 1995 will revive investor interest in technology IPOs. But it remains to be seen whether any single company can restore the unbridled (even unhinged) enthusiasm that reigned in the valley in the late 1990s.

Correction May 3, 2004: The suggestion above that Google’s underwriters will hand out some stock to elite investors was incorrect. Google plans to sell all of the offered shares through an online Dutch auction, the details of which have yet to be revealed. See this New York Times story for a look at the banking community’s reaction.

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