It seems Steve Jobs prefers his eggs-ecutives fried, not poached. And that could place him in boiling water with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Smoking-gun e-mails unearthed by Bloomberg suggest that back in August 2007, the Pope of 1 Infinite Loop contacted then Palm CEO Ed Colligan with a deal: Keep your dirty palms (ahem) off our top talent, and we'll do the same.
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Colligan not only said thanks, but no thanks, he also casually mentioned that such collusion would probably be looked upon with disfavor by Johnny Law. Per Bloomberg:
"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," Colligan said to Jobs, 54, according to the communications.
This whole thing really started when former Apple iPod impresario Jon Rubenstein jumped ship to Palm just as the Jesus Phone was being unveiled to the world. Lo and behold, a few years later we have the Palm Pre -- the most iPhone-like cell phone this side of Cupertino. As of last June, Rubenstein is Palm's CEO, and the war between Apple and Palm is now fully underway.
The feds are already digging into alleged anti-poaching agreements between Apple, Google, Yahoo, and others, which if true would represent collusion between the companies -- an antitrust no-no. This is sure to toss some gasoline onto that fire.
As the Mercury News' John Boudreau notes, there are situations where nonpoaching agreements are prefectly legal:
...such as when they form close partnerships that give managers deep knowledge of their collaborators' rank and file, he said. Non-solicitation agreements are also permitted when one company acquires another, say a startup. The stipulation prevents the founder from leaving with his top lieutenants to immediately launch a competing company.
IANAL, but the Apple-Palm scenario really doesn't seem to fit.