By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer
Internet search leader Google Inc. has added a landmark to its rapidly expanding empire; the Silicon Valley home where co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented a garage eight years ago as they set out to change the world.
The Mountain View-based company bought the 1,900-square-foot home in nearby Menlo Park from one of its own employees, Susan Wojcicki, who had agreed to lease her garage for $1,700 per month because she wanted some help paying the mortgage.
Wojcicki, now Google's vice president of product management, didn't work for the company at the time and only knew the Stanford University graduate students because one of her friends had dated Brin.
During Google's five-month history there, the garage became like a second home for Page and Brin.
The entrepreneurs, then just 25, seemed to be always working on their search engine or soaking in the hot tub that still sits on the property. They also had a penchant for raiding Wojcicki's refrigerator -- a habit that may have inspired Google to provide a smorgasbord of free food to the 8,000 employees on its payroll.
When Page and Brin first moved in the garage, Google had just been incorporated with a bankroll of $1 million raised from a handful of investors. Today, Google has about $10 billion in cash and a market value of $125 billion.
The company's astounding growth has imbued its birthplace with the same kind of mystique attached to other hallowed Silicon Valley spots like the Palo Alto garage where Hewlett-Packard Co. started in 1938 and the Los Altos garage where Steve Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak first began to build Apple computers in the 1970s.
HP paid $1.7 million for 12-by-18-foot garage that co-founder William Hewlett first rented for $45 per month.
Google declined to reveal how much it paid for its original home, but similar houses in the same neighborhood have been selling in the $1.1 million to $1.3 million range. That's a small fraction of the $319 million that Google paid earlier this year for its current1-million-square-foot headquarters located six miles to the south.
Although the Google garage isn't considered a historic site quite yet, it already has turned into a tourist attraction.
The busloads of people that show up to take pictures of the house and garage have become such an annoyance that Google asked The Associated Press not to publish the property's address, although it can easily be found on the Internet using the company's search engine.
Google may use the home as a guest house, but nothing definitive has been worked out. "We plan to preserve the property as a part of our living legacy," said Google spokesman Jon Murchinson.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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