Borland is suing Microsoft US for luring away staff, American-style.
Borland claims the Redmond giant sent limousines to take staff out to lunch. Alleged hefty signing bonuses have also helped in taking 34 key Borland staff away from Borland in the past 30 months.
Borland is claiming unfair competition and has filed a lawsuit in California charging Microsoft with systematically raiding its company for software architects, engineers and marketing managers, acquiring confidential information along the way. In the development tools market Borland’s 4GL product Delphi competes with Microsoft’s Visual Basic; Borland C++ Builder with Microsoft Visual C++; Borland’s Java tool JBuilder with Microsoft Visual J++ and Borland IntraBuilder with Microsoft Visual InterDev.
In its statement of claim Borland alleges that “the method Microsoft chose to develop its answer to Delphi, as well as Borland C++ and Internet tools, was to hire away the people at Borland who had developed the products”.
Borland says that in September last year Microsoft offered Paul Gross, at the time a senior vice-president of research and development, a “$US1 million signing bonus, stock options and title to selected real estate in or near Redmond, Washington”.. When Borland counter offered, Microsoft raised its offer by $500,000 if Gross quit Borland that day. He did.
Borland alleges that the following month Microsoft offered Delphi chief architect Anders Hejlsberg, a $1.5 million signing bonus, over a base salary of about $150,000 to $200,000 and lucrative options to purchase 75,000 Microsoft shares. Once again Borland countered, prompting Microsoft to offer Hejlsberg another $1.5 million.
The statement says “Hejlsberg indicated to Heller [Borland’s director] that Gates had been applying ‘incessant’ and ‘intense’ pressure to get him to work at Microsoft. On October 30, 1996, Hjelsberg, the principal architect of Borland’s Delphi product and a significant participant in Borland’s future product development plans, left Borland and went to work for Microsoft developing Delphi for Java.”
It is a turbulent time for Borland, which has just released Version 3.0 of Delphi to healthy reviews but also laid off 300 of its 1000 employees earlier this year to cut costs.
A Microsoft spokesman in the US says Borland’s claim is “without merit.”