MICROSOFT & GOOGLE TRADE SALVOS
MICROSOFT & GOOGLE TRADE SALVOS
2005-09-06 at 11:42:00 am #12480
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——
Before joining Google, Schmidt was a top executive at Sun Microsystems
Inc. and Novell Inc., a pair of tech companies that Microsoft has
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
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.