Former Microsoft UK senior executive lodges claims of “excessive drunkenness” in High Court case
A sacked senior executive at Microsoft UK has hit back against the company, lodging papers at the High Court which allege excessive drunkenness and lewd behaviour.
Simon Negus, Microsoft’s UK enterprise partner director and second-in-command of the UK business, was sacked last September amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. The firm has sued for the return of £75,000 it paid him as part of a joining fee in 2008, and Negus has now countersued, claiming unfair dismissal, and alleging that “drunkenness and outrageous misbehaviour were rife” at the company.
“Unlimited quantities of vodka”
Negus was accused of kissing colleague Toni Knowlson at the Microsoft Global Exchange conference in Atlanta in 2009, as well as sexually harassing other colleagues, asking Martina Redmond to stand on a chair to show off her short skirt, and suggesting Zobia Chughtai should ‘flutter her eyelashes’.
The allegations were unproven in an internal investigation, but Negus was dismissed by UK chief Gordon Frazer – and Microsoft sued him for the return of £75,000 of a £225,000 joining fee it paid to Negus in 2008, on the understanding he would stay for three years.
In return, Negus has claimed unfair dismissal, and is asking for fifteen years’ salary. In papers he has lodged with the High Court, he has claimed that Frazer shifted his position rapidly, according to reports in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. Negus says he was assured he would eventually have the top job when he joined, but claims that Frazer rigged the internal inquiry into Negus’ conduct. Negus says Frazer sent an email to Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, outlining plans to dismiss Negus before the inquiry was over.
While the inquiry was inconclusive, Negus was eventually dismissed because – Microsoft said – he had lied to the inquiry.
In his court submissions, Negus describes “drunkenness and outrageous misbehaviour” at the sales conference, where vodka and Jagermesiter were available in unlimited quantities, and one male executive was so “ridiculously drunk” he followed a colleague into the ladies’ toilets.
The case echoes that of Mark Hurd, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who resigned a year ago amid sexual harassment claims. These claims were also unproven, but HP executives accused Hurd of lying in the investigation.
Microsoft was contacted, but declined to comment on a continuing court case.