The Papermaster saga continues: far from first choice, and IBM didn't try that hard to keep him

Yeah…a play on “Boston Legal” probably would have been better (and easier)
The ongoing drama between Apple and IBM in which would-be iPod and iPhone division head Mark Papermaster is charged with breaching a non-competition contract with IBM is getting more complicated. On the Apple side, it’s no great surprise to find out that he was considered rather a “long shot” in terms of everything but his technical knowledge. However, the search for an iPod head had been going on for so long that they were starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel — or maybe it’s more charitable to say they were reaching the bottom of the cream and getting to the rest of the crop. At any rate, they offered him the job, which he decided to take. That’s when things get interesting.

IBM didn’t object to Papermaster leaving when he announced it, only saying they were sorry so see him go. They offered him two separate pay raises over a week, both of which he declined, and only after that did they bring up a somewhat obscure document raising the issue of non-competition. IBM maintains that Papermaster could use his general knowledge of IBM and specific knowledge of a few products to compete with his former employer from his future position.

It seems that IBM’s position was, first, to appear amiable. It’s likely that the people Papermaster talked to suspected a non-comp clause was around somewhere but didn’t want to go out on a limb right away. So they offered him a raise off the bat just to see if he’d come back, then when he didn’t they started pushing paper. Once they found something, they made another, better offer, in case he was on the fence and they’d undershot his price the first time around. When he refused again they essentially said “We didn’t want to have to bring this up, but…” and out comes the non-comp. From the way it’s described, it sounds pretty shaky: Apple is in the same column as IBM in some salary comparison list, it looks like. Not exactly firm legal ground considering their previous behavior; if Apple were clearly in competition with IBM in Papermaster’s areas of expertise, it would probably be a little more explicit in his contract.

IBM has thrown a bunch of consequences in Papermaster’s direction, and Apple has similarly lobbed a few counter-compensations. It’s turning into quite a little fracas! Still, clearly not all the evidence is on the table yet and too much speculation at this point may be silly. There is more information at the source article at Apple Insider, but more should be coming up in the next week.