Steve Jobs wasn't even okay with Google hiring former Apple engineers
Earlier this week, PandoDaily released a treasure trove of information pertaining to the anti-poaching agreements many top Silicon Valley tech firms entered into a few years back, including an email showing showing that Steve Jobs angrily called Google co-founder Sergey Brin over Google's attempt to hire an engineer from Apple's Safari team. Indeed, it largely appears that many top executives from firms like Intel, Google, and Apple were all party to tacit agreements not to directly solicit employees from each other.
In looking over some of the publicly filed legal documents in the case, we happened to stumble upon this email thread which seems to indicate that Steve Jobs wasn't even on-board with Google hiring engineers who no longer worked at Apple.
The emails below involve Steve Jobs, Jean-Marie Hullot (a former NeXT employee who worked as the CTO of Apple's Application Division from 2001 through 2005), and Alan Eustace who currently works as Google's Sr. VP of Knowledge (i.e Search). Previously, Eustace worked as Google's Senior VP of Engineering and Research.
The context of these emails isn't entirely clear as Hullot never worked at Google, but it appears that Hullot may have been interested in joining Google with some of his trusted former Apple employees back in mid-2006.
The email string shows that Steve Jobs, in corresponding with Eustace via email in April of 2006, "strongly preferred" that Google not hire Apple engineers who had left the company in December of 2005.
I've since reached out to Hullot to confirm if he was, in fact, contemplating joining Google in 2006, which would of course help contextualize the email exchanges below.
On April 25, 2006, Alan Eustace wrote the following email to Jobs:
Jean-Marie would like to hire 4 people that used to work for him at Apple in Paris. Three left in Apple in December, and one gave notice in December, but was encouraged to complete his current assignment, which he agreed to do.
Jean-Marie did not believe that you would object to his hiring these specific people, as long as we don't hire anyone else from Apple in Paris, but I wanted to confirm this with you, before I open the office, or any of these people start.
Are you OK with this? If not, I'm willing to cancel the entire thing. If you are OK with it, I'll make sure to run the project area by you to make sure that there are no conflicts of interest with work that they did at Apple.
Jobs responded the next day:
We'd strongly prefer that you not hire these guys.
The following day, Eustace wrote the following to Hullot:
Steve is opposed to Google hiring these engineers. He didn't say why, and I don't think it is appropriate for me to go back for clarification. I can't risk our relationship with Apple to make this happen over his objections. If you have any good ideas (or even bad ones), please let me know. right now, it looks like if you want to keep this great team together, it will have to be at another company.
Adding a bit more context to these emails, a 2008 article from TechCrunch details that Hullot and other members from Apple's Paris engineering team were actually given pink slips.
Hullot and much of the Paris engineering office was let go from Apple in 2006 after Hullot reportedly lost an internal political battle over the direction of the iPhone. But under French law, laid off workers can receive 80% pay for up to 18 months after losing their jobs, directly from the government. Hullot kept five of his top engineers to work on fotonauts, while the French government paid their wages.
Not surprisingly, many of the software engineers currently at fotonauts, where Hullot is now CEO, are former Apple engineers.
Update: PandoDaily has since published a story adding even more context to the story. As it turns out, Google was hoping to open up an engineering center in Paris.
In one of the first emails sent to Jobs on the matter, Alan Eustace wrote:
Google would like to make an offer to Jean-Marie Hullot to run a small engineering center in Paris. Bill [Campbell], Larry [Page], Sergey [Brin] and Jean-Marie believe it is important to get your blessing before moving forward with this offer.
Jean-Marie has worked very hard to leave Apple on the best possible terms, and has agreed to abide by the terms of his non-solicit and non-compete clauses. He loves Apple, and would not do anything to hurt you or the company.
Google's relationship with Apple is extremely important to us. If that relationship is any way threatened by this hire, please let me know and we will pass on this opportunity.
While Jobs' initial response seemed to indicate that he was okay with this so long as Google's engineering center didn't relate to "cell phone handsets", he ultimately was reluctant to give the hiring his blessing.
A final email from Eustace to Jobs makes it overtly apparent that keeping Jobs happy was of utmost importance to Google.
Based on your strong preference that we not hire the ex-Apple engineers, Jean-Marie and I decided not to open a Google Paris engineering center. I appreciate your input into this decision, and your continued support of the Google/Apple partnership.
Lastly, I've uploaded the pertinent Steve Jobs email string to Scribd, which can be viewed below.
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