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 user 2005-09-06 at 11:43:00 am Views: 57
  • #12651

    Microsoft, Google Trade Salvos Over Executive

    SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft
    Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer vowed to “kill” Internet search leader Google
    Inc. in an obscenity-laced tirade, and Google chased a prized Microsoft
    executive “like wolves,” according to documents filed Friday in an
    increasingly bitter legal battle between the rivals.

    The allegations, filed in a Washington state court, represent the
    latest salvos in a showdown triggered by Google’s July hiring of former
    Microsoft executive Kai Fu-Lee to oversee a research and development
    center that Google plans to open in China. Lee started at Google the
    day after he resigned from Microsoft.

    The tug-of-war over Lee _ known for his work on computer recognition of
    language _ has exposed the behind-the-scenes animosity that has been
    brewing between two of high-tech’s best-known companies.

    Ballmer’s threat last November was recounted in a sworn declaration by
    a former Microsoft engineer, Mark Lucovsky, who said he met with
    Microsoft’s chief executive 10 months ago to discuss his decision to
    leave the company after six years.

    After learning Lucovsky was leaving to take a job at Google, Ballmer
    picked up his chair and hurled it across his office, according to the

    Ballmer then pejoratively berated Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Lucovsky recalled.

    “I’m going to f—— bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will
    do it again,” the declaration quotes Ballmer. “I’m going to f——
    kill Google.”

    Before joining Google, Schmidt was a top executive at Sun Microsystems
    Inc. and Novell Inc., a pair of tech companies that Microsoft has
    previously battled.

    In a statement Friday, Ballmer described Lucovsky’s recollection as a
    “gross exaggeration. Mark’s decision to leave was disappointing and I
    urged him strongly to change his mind. But his characterization of that
    meeting is not accurate.”

    Microsoft is suing to prevent Lee from leading Google’s China
    expansion, maintaining those duties would violate the terms of a
    noncompete agreement that he signed as part of his employment contract.

    Mountain View-based Google has depicted Microsoft’s lawsuit as a form
    of intimidation designed to thwart a fast-growing rival that has
    emerged as a formidable threat to the Redmond, Wash.-based software

    The Lucovsky declaration is just one piece of evidence that Google has
    filed in an attempt to prove that Microsoft is on a vendetta.

    Microsoft won the first round in the case in late July when King County
    Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez issued an order temporarily
    barring Lee from performing the duties that Google hired him to do. The
    two rivals are scheduled to face off in court Tuesday when Microsoft
    will ask Gonzalez to extend the order against Lee and Google until the
    case goes to trial in January.

    As it tries to make its case, Microsoft is trying to demonstrate that
    Google wanted Lee largely because he knows intimate details about
    Microsoft’s strategy for expanding in China and for the booming search
    engine market.

    In its brief Friday, Microsoft alleged that Lee sent confidential
    documents about the company’s China strategy to Google a month before
    he was hired, although Google insists all the material that Lee relayed
    to Google had been made public previously.

    Microsoft also released an e-mail from Jonathan Rosenberg, Google’s
    director of business development, in an attempt to prove the company
    wants Lee for other projects besides the new China center.

    “I all but insist that we pull out all the stops and pursue him like
    wolves,” Rosenberg wrote of Lee. “He is an all-star and will contribute
    in ways that go substantially beyond China.”

    Before resigning from Microsoft, Lee began to help Google plot its
    China strategy with a series of suggestions, including recommending
    possible sites for the new office, according to Microsoft’s brief.

    Microsoft alleged Lee’s insights helped him win a Google contract worth
    more than $10 million _ a package that Google itself described as
    “unprecedented” for the company.

    Google paid Lee a $2.5 million signing bonus and promised a $1.5
    million bonus after one year, plus a $250,000 salary and options on
    10,000 shares of Google stock, according to court documents. If he
    stays for four years, Lee also will receive another 20,000 Google
    shares, currently worth $5.8 million.

    Lee also demanded that Google pay all his legal fees if Microsoft sued, a request that was granted.