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Palm Supposedly Rejected Employee Poaching Deal with Apple

Steve Jobs, Jon Rubinstein, Ed Colligan
Steve Jobs, Jon Rubinstein, Ed Colligan

According to Bloomberg, former Palm (s palm) CEO Ed Colligan rejected an offer by Steve Jobs to refrain from hiring each other’s employees.

Similar allegations have been made regarding Apple (s aapl) and Google (s goog) recently, though in that instance the policy was supposedly an informal and undocumented one, but with Palm there are “communications” involved.

“We must do whatever we can to stop this,” said Steve Jobs on the issue of “poaching” employees, the practice of hiring away highly-capable individuals from one company to another. In the most notable example of employees sharing between the two companies, Jon Rubinstein, SVP of Apple’s iPod division until 2006, later became Executive Chairman of the Board at Palm, and was a driving force behind the company-saving Pre initiative. This seems to have not sat well with Steve Jobs, hence his “communication” with Ed Colligan in 2007 about Rubinstein attempting to recruit more Apple employees. Colligan’s reported reply was short, but succinct.

“Your proposal that we agree that neither company will hire the other’s employees, regardless of the individual’s desires, is not only wrong, it is likely illegal.”

It certainly would be a violation of anti-trust law, if it happened. Considering this incident occurred two years ago, it’s remarkable that the Department of Justice hasn’t been interested, which Palm claims it isn’t. Of course, it’s possible Colligan didn’t release details of a “likely illegal” offer until recently, but that seems odd, too. Also odd is the fact that no one knows what exactly Jobs wanted Colligan to do.

According to Bloomberg, the “exact details of what Jobs proposed to Colligan aren’t known; Jobs didn’t mention a proposal in the communications reviewed by Bloomberg.” So, to sum up, there is nothing written down, the “communication” was verbal, two years old, and originates from a company with an increasingly bitter relationship with Apple.

Don’t expect to see Steve Jobs doing doing a perp walk anytime soon over this one.

3 Responses to “Palm Supposedly Rejected Employee Poaching Deal with Apple”

  1. Why??? The more Apple seeds are spread around, the better! Just image the amount of amazing Apple-like competition created by the poaching. It can only be good for everybody. Monopolies are bad for everybody, except for the monopolizers. Good healthy competition is good for innovation, and it will force Apple to stay ahead of the competition, whether it wants to or not.

    End result: better Apple products. Nothing wrong with this.

    • I mostly agree – headhunting will always be a common practice of the corporate world as companies jockey for leads in innovation and profit, and Apple doesn’t need to be protected from it. However, I understand why they would currently, especially after Palm’s exploitation of iTunes code to have the program identify Pres as iPods, be worried about the poaching not just of employees, but corporate intellectual property they might take with them if less scrupulous than they should be.

      I also disagree with the use of the term monopoly. Yes, when it comes to portable media devices, they hold a good market share. However, their smartphone is also tied to specific mobile carriers, meaning they or any other carrier-exclusive device (like the Pre) would have trouble actually becoming a monopoly. Big or successful doesn’t mean something is a monopoly.

  2. 9121977

    of course palm did not agree … they needed all the apple engineers to make a good device… I think apple needs to be protected from such targeted poaching.