Report: Palm spurned Apple offer on hiring

Steve Jobs in 2007 wanted to stop Apple execs from jumping ship to Palm, but Palm's then CEO Ed Colligan wouldn't strike a deal, Bloomberg News reports.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
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Two years ago, Palm's then CEO, Ed Colligan, rejected a proposal from Apple chief Steve Jobs to promise not to hire each other's employees, according to Bloomberg News.

According to Thursday's Bloomberg story, which cited unspecified "communications" between the two executives, Colligan in August 2007 said that Jobs' proposal was ill-considered. Jobs was worried about losing key Apple employees to Palm and said "we must do whatever we can to stop this," reported 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 told Jobs, according to the communications reviewed by Bloomberg.

A number of top figures at Palm once worked at Apple. Two months before the August 2007 communications cited by Bloomberg, Palm had announced that former Apple CFO Fred Anderson would be joining its board of directors and that Jon Rubenstein, who retired as head of Apple's iPod division in 2005, would join as executive chairman of the board.

In June of this year, Palm named Rubenstein as its CEO, replacing Colligan.

In August, former Apple staffer Jeff Zwerner became Palm's brand design chief. Other Apple execs who have jumped ship to Palm in recent months include Senior VP of Product Development Mike Bell and PR head Lynn Fox.

There's no love lost of late between the companies, with the Palm Pre a new up-and-comer for smartphone market share against the Apple iPhone. The two have most recently been squabbling over the Pre's compatibility with iTunes.

The Bloomberg story comes as the Justice Department is reportedly checking into possible hiring collusion among leading technology companies.

Tensions often run high between tech companies over executives moving between potential competitors. Apple last year got into a high-profile scrape with IBM over its hiring of Mark Papermaster from Big Blue.