While being deposed in a Microsoft lawsuit against Google, former Microsoft executive and Windows NT architect Mark Lucovsky stated that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer threatened to "kill" Google when he learned that Lucovsky was leaving Microsoft to join Google. Ballmer allegedly made the threat during a chair-throwing tirade in which he also threatened Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Ballmer denies that it happened that way, however.
According to Lucovsky, when he informed Ballmer last year that he was leaving Microsoft, Ballmer asked him whether he was leaving to join Google. When Lucovsky said that he was, the famously volatile Ballmer picked up a chair in his office and hurled it at the wall. "I'm going to \[expletive deleted\] bury \[Schmidt\]," Ballmer said. "I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to \[expletive deleted\] kill Google." Schmidt was formerly an executive at Novell and Sun Microsystems--two companies that were, indeed, adversely affected by Microsoft's market success.
Ballmer has categorized Lucovsky's recollection of the meeting as "a gross exaggeration of what actually took place. Mark's decision to leave was disappointing, and I urged him strongly to change his mind," Ballmer said. "But his characterization of that meeting is not accurate." Lucovsky was a Distinguished Engineer and Windows Server Architect at Microsoft. As I noted in "Windows Server 2003: The Road To Gold Part One: The Early Years" (see the URL below), he joined Microsoft with the original wave of ex-Digital Equipment employees who accompanied NT architect Dave Cutler. Lucovsky was widely regarded at Microsoft for his technical acumen and is one of the most impressive people I've ever met.
The deposition came to light because of a recent lawsuit over ex-Microsoft researcher Kai-Fu Lee, who left the software giant earlier this year to join Google. Microsoft sued Google over the hire, citing Lee's employment agreement, which specified that he couldn't work for a direct Microsoft competitor for at least 1 year after leaving the company. Despite its posturing, recently revealed documents indicate that Google was aware of the agreement and, in the event of a Microsoft lawsuit, had made contingency plans to keep Lee on paid leave until he could begin working for Google. Microsoft also alleges that Lee sent Google some confidential Microsoft information before he left the company.
Ballmer's alleged behavior harkens back to Microsoft's US antitrust lawsuit, during which similar exchanges between various Microsoft executives were detailed. However, it's important to point out that Ballmer never threatened to actually break the law to "bury" or "kill" Schmidt or Google. Microsoft shareholders should be happy that the company's CEO is that aggressively competitive. Arguably, they should expect no less.