NASA Audit: Google Execs Saved Millions on Jet Fuel

An aircraft fleet owned by Google's founders and former CEO received improper discounts on jet fuel that saved the three billionaires up to $5.3 million dating back to depths of the Great Recession in 2009, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The findings by NASA's inspector general surfaced during a review of a government airfield lease for seven planes and two helicopters controlled by Google's founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and the Internet search company's former CEO, Eric Schmidt.

The aircraft are managed through a company called H211 set up by the three men through the tremendous wealth that they have accumulated as Google Inc.'s stock price has soared from $85 in 2004 to nearly $1,100. Page, who is Google's current CEO, and Brin, who heads the company's special projects division, are each worth about $25 billion, according to Forbes magazine. Schmidt, who became executive chairman after stepping down as CEO in 2011, is worth about $8 billion.

H211 has been paying $1.4 million annually since 2007 to lease hangar space from NASA at Moffett Federal Airfield, a former U.S. Navy base 4 miles from Google's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

NASA's inspector general concluded that the rent for the hangar space represented a fair rate, but the inspector general's report flagged the bargain that Google's jet-setting executives got on the fuel for their flights around the world.

The H211 aircraft saved somewhere from $3.3 million to $5.3 million beginning in 2009 by buying fuel through an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense at below-market prices that allowed them to avoid state and local taxes, according to the report. The discounts didn't result in any losses for NASA or the Department of Defense, the report said, but probably deprived the state of California and local government agencies of tax revenue. Other fuel suppliers...

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