Gosplan Vet Counts On Google Son

bloombergGoogle co-founders Larry Page, left, and Sergey Brin will both become billionaires when they take their search engine public.
SAN FRANCISCO -- One co-founder of Google may be on the verge of pulling in billions of dollars with the most anticipated public offering in years, but he continues to live modestly, his Russian emigre father says.

"He does not have much money, I do not have much money," Michael Brin, father of Google president Sergey Brin, said in an interview.

"He is renting a two-bedroom apartment, he drives a Toyota Prius," he said of the hybrid gas-electric car that sells for around $20,000.

The elder Brin set the stage for his son's classic American success story by emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1979. The mathematician father had worked as an economist with an institute of the Communist planning agency Gosplan.

"Most of that time I devoted to proving that the Russian living standards were much, much higher than the American living standards. How about that?" Michael Brin said.

How did he show such progress under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in what is now called the "years of stagnation?"

"I know a lot about numbers," said Brin, who earned 185 rubles per month after a decade on the job. "I wasn't very precise. It was that in the immediate future they were going to be way higher."

Because of discrimination against Jews, Michael Brin and his wife, a mathematician working as a civil engineer, left in 1979 with their young son Sergey. Michael Brin got a job at the University of Maryland mathematics department where he still teaches, and thought his son might follow in his footsteps, as he had followed his father before him.

"I left because of myself and because of his [Sergey's] future. I didn't want him to be in the same situation as I was," Michael Brin said by telephone. "Did we expect him to become, what's it called -- Time magazine calls him a 'titan of industry?' No, I had no idea. I expected him to get his Ph.D. and to become somebody, maybe a professor."

Sergey is now on leave from Stanford, where he was trying to get a doctoral degree. Instead, he set up Google, the world's No. 1 Internet search engine that is widely expected to announce this week that it plans to go public.

Despite the praise for Google's technological innovations, Sergey Brin can hardly savor the moment, his father said.

"He has many problems. There are lawsuits, there is a controversy with the [anti-Semitic] Jewwatch Web site," he said. "There are many things he has to handle. I don't think he has the time to reflect on what's happening to him."

"He cannot avoid it now. He is responsible for what he created and he has to keep moving it forward. He cannot just disappear or retire," he continued. "It will take a few more years before the situation is stable enough for him to transfer at least a part of his responsibilities to other people."

But this is, after all, sunny California, so there has to be at least some time to enjoy the great outdoors.

"I called him recently, it was two days ago. He was roller-blading on the campus of Stanford University."