"I'm going to fucking kill Google" – Ballmer

Wow! The legal battle between Microsoft and Google is really getting interesting.

In case you haven’t been following it – the battle is taking place because Google hired one Kai Fu-Lee, formerly of Microsoft, to oversee a research and development centre that Google plans to open in China. Lee started at Google the day after he resigned from Microsoft.

Now in a sworn declaration by a former Microsoft engineer, Mark Lucovsky who met with Microsoft’s chief executive Steve Ballmer 10 months ago to discuss his decision to leave the company after six years, the depth of Microsoft’s animosity towards Google has emerged.

According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, after learning Lucovsky was leaving to take a job at Google, Ballmer picked up his chair and hurled it across his office!

Ballmer then is reported to have said:

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

Justin has more details including this extract:

Prior to joining Google, I set up a meeting on or about November 11, 2004 with Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer to discuss my planned departure….At some point in the conversation Mr. Ballmer said: “Just tell me it’s not Google.” I told him it was Google.
At that point, Mr. Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room hitting a table in his office. Mr. Ballmer then said: “Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy. I’m going to fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to fucking kill Google.

The Herald goes on to report Ballmer’s denial of those statements:

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

Google, on the other hand, claims Microsoft’s lawsuit is merely intimidation designed to thwart a fast-growing rival that has emerged as a formidable threat to the software maker.

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

Other interesting snippets coming out of this case:

  • 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 email 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 centre.
    “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.
  • Lee received a Google contract worth more than $US10 million ($13.14 million) according to Microsoft – a package that Google itself described as “unprecedented” for the company. And most tellingly,
  • Lee also demanded that Google pay all his legal fees if Microsoft sued, a request that was granted

Lee’s sending of information to Google (confidential or otherwise) a month before he left Microsoft looks pretty underhand and smacks of sharp practice on behalf of both Lee and Google.

The gloves are definitely off in this clash – it will be fascinating to watch how this all plays out.