Palm allegedly snubbed Jobs antirecruiting offer

The man who succeeded Ed Colligan (right) as CEO at Palm Inc. had worked with Apple CEO Steve Jobs (left) for more than 15 years. The man who succeeded Ed Colligan (right) as CEO at Palm Inc. had worked with Apple CEO Steve Jobs (left) for more than 15 years.
By Connie Guglielmo
Bloomberg / August 21, 2009

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SAN FRANCISCO - Ed Colligan, former chief executive officer at Palm Inc., rejected a proposal from Apple Inc.’s Steve Jobs to refrain from hiring each other’s employees two years ago, calling it wrong and “likely illegal,’’ according to their communications.

Colligan, who stepped down as CEO in June, discussed the matter with Jobs in August 2007 as the mobile phone war heated up, according to the communications. Apple had introduced the iPhone two months earlier, just as Palm hired a former Apple executive, Jon Rubinstein, to develop new smart phones. Jobs, Apple’s CEO, told Colligan he was concerned that Rubinstein was recruiting Apple employees. “We must do whatever we can to stop this,’’ Jobs said in the communications.

The Justice Department is investigating possible collusion in hiring among technology companies, a person familiar with the probe said in June. Derick Mains, a spokesman for Palm, said the company hasn’t been contacted by the Justice Department. Bloomberg News reviewed the communications between Jobs and Colligan.

The exact details of what Jobs proposed to Colligan aren’t known; Jobs didn’t mention a proposal in the communications reviewed by Bloomberg. Jobs said Apple had patents and more money than Palm if the companies ended up in a legal fight, according to the communications. Apple, maker of the Macintosh personal computer, declined to comment, said Katie Cotton, a spokeswoman for the Cupertino-based company. Jobs didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The discussion highlights the tension between the companies as Rubinstein took over product development to help lead a turnaround at Palm, a pioneer in handheld computing. Palm, based in Sunnyvale, declined to comment, as did Colligan and Rubinstein, Mains said.