Google founders' party jet hits turbulence

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The Independent Online

The billionaire founders of Google had hoped their ostentatiously large private jet would be a "party plane" with king-size beds and even hammocks swinging from the ceiling. But now it seems the only people partying are lawyers.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin are embroiled in a messy legal dispute with the man hired to design the interior of the plane, a Boeing 767 which would normally seat 180 passengers. The pair have tried to keep details of the plane, including its layout and its whereabouts, top secret. But the legal dispute, due to play out in courts in California and Texas, has provided a glimpse into the tastes and plans of the thirtysomethings who became America's youngest billionaires when they floated their pioneering search engine company on Wall Street.

Leslie Jennings, who has previously helped fit out planes for royalty and the Microsoft founder Paul Allen, was fired from the project late last year. Blue City, the holding company through which the Google founders own the plane, says Mr Jennings did not work hard enough and was often hard to contact. Mr Jennings says he was unfairly dismissed and wants millions of dollars in compensation.

Now he has gone public with his criticisms of Messrs Brin and Page, saying they had many "strange requests" including a desire to have hammocks swinging from the ceiling. The pair wanted it to be a "party plane", he said.

In an interview with the US press, Mr Jennings also recalled a dispute between the pair over the size of the beds in their state rooms, which was only brought to an end when Eric Schmidt - Google's chief executive - stepped in to tell Mr Page: "Sergey, you can have whatever bed you want in your room; Larry, you can have whatever kind of bed you want in your bedroom."

The aircraft, a Boeing 767-200 which used to be owned by Qantas, was bought last year for an estimated $15m. That is a fraction of a price of a smaller corporate jet bought new. Mr Page said at the time that it was an economical way of transporting more of their friends and business associates around the world.

The plane could host a party for about 50 people. It has a large lounge towards the front, and a bigger sitting and dining area, with bedrooms and personal lounges for the founders further back.

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