Kai-Fu Lee Asked Google For $10 Million

    September 7, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

He told Google that if $10 million was “way out of the ballpark,” they had no need to talk about his departing Microsoft.

The fun continues as billionaires on both sides of the Microsoft and Google snit sent in their lawyers yesterday to King County Superior Court in Seattle. Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, who left Microsoft for Google in July, was on the stand in the case to decide whether or not he should be forced to sit out one year before starting his new job.

Seattle Times notes how testimony disclosed Microsoft’s poor job in establishing its China operations. Reportedly, Microsoft threatened and insulted the Chinese government, and pretty much ignored Dr. Lee’s advice about establishing itself in China. An email from Dr. Lee to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, dated 2003, says he was “deeply disappointed at our incompetence in China.”

Apparently that did not go over well with Mr. Gates, who allegedly accused the Chinese people and government of being abusive with Microsoft. Part of Dr. Lee’s advice, according to testimony, said Microsoft should be “contributing on a local level” in China, but it isn’t clear just what Microsoft was expected to contribute.

Microsoft lawyers had their turn with the court, as they disclosed an email from Dr. Lee to Google, dated May 7, sent to Eric Schmidt and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. “If Google has great ambitions for China, I would be interested in having a discussion with you,” it read.

Dr. Lee claimed he expected to make $10 million with Microsoft over the next four years. Without a commitment from Google to match that figure, they didn’t have any reason to talk about his leaving Redmond for Mountain View and China.

The court battle will focus on whether or not Dr. Lee will be performing work with Google similar to his duties with Microsoft. Dr. Lee claims to have only worked on natural language technology with Microsoft, while his erstwhile employer says he worked on search issues in direct competition with Google.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.