Emails show Steve Jobs took hard ball approach to prevent employees from leaving

Emails made public as a result of a of a recent court ruling show how the late Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley CEOs used brazen tactics to ensure their employees didn’t jump ship to competitors. The emails are part of an ongoing class action case in San Jose, Calif., in which employees are suing Apple, Palm (now part of HP), Intel(s INTC), Google and other firms for allegedly entering into illegal pacts not to hire each others’ workers.

The Verge has posted all the emails, and it is worth reading them for yourself. A sampling of some of the quotes from the heads of Apple, Google,(s GOOG) Intel, Pixar, Intuit, Adobe(s ADBE) and Lucasfilm:

  • Jobs didn’t mince words when it came to defending his employees from poachers. When he found out Google was heavily recruiting from his iPod team, he asked then-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt, “Can you put a stop to it? Thanks, Steve.”
  • Jobs wasn’t above threats. As he told then-CEO of Palm Ed Colligan when complaining of Palm recruiting Apple engineers: “I’m sure you realize the asymmetry in the financial resources of our respective companies when you say: ‘We will both just end up paying a lot of lawyers a lot of money.’”
  • It’s clear they knew this was wrong and did it anyway. Intel CEO Paul Otellini said of his arrangement with Schmidt and Google, “We have nothing signed. We have a handshake ‘no-recruit’ between Eric and myself. I would not like this broadly known.”
  • Jobs was signing off personally on some employees’ recruitment. He was asked by current Pixar VP Rob Cook about a particular Apple employee he was recruiting to the animation studio, to which Jobs replied, “Yea, it’s fine.”

The Department of Justice investigation into this same matter was settled in 2010, but the civil suit is continuing. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was COO when these emails were being sent back and forth between Jobs and others, has been ordered to sit for a deposition. Otellini will be deposed later this month, while Google Chairman Schmidt will give one in late February.

Image courtesy of Flickr user acaben