Apple hires BlackBerry's top software VP, BlackBerry wins court battle over departure

Sebastien Marineau-Mes, BlackBerry's SVP of Software, is leaving the ailing smartphone manufacturer for brighter and warmer pastures: Apple. Or at least that's what he's trying to do, if it weren't for those pesky contracts. As revealed in a recent ruling from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice document, Marineau-Mes began discussing leaving BlackBerry for Apple back in September 2013, and was formally offered the position of Vice President of Core OS in December.

He accepted the position and offered his written resignation to BlackBerry on December 23rd, advising them that he'd likely be heading out to Apple in two months time. That's where the legal dispute of BlackBerry Limited v. Marineau-Mes started, as per a contract signed by Marineau-Mes that gave him a promotion to BlackBerry EVP of Platform Development he was required to provide six months notice of his resignation.

To add insult to injury, that contract was signed on September 27, 2013 — both while BlackBerry was under a promotional freeze (except for when you really want to keep somebody) and while Marineau-Mes was in discussions about moving to Apple. So BlackBerry took Marineau-Mes to court, and the court agreed that he should fulfill his six-month notice obligation at the company.

We reached out to BlackBerry for statement:

"BlackBerry will not stand by while a former employee violates his employment contract. It is unfortunate that we had to take this step, but we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that employees honor the agreements they make with us. When we enter into an agreement with an employee, as we have with Mr. Marineau, we expect him to honor his commitment just as he would expect that we will honor ours. We are pleased that the court has endorsed our position and ruled that the employee contract and its terms are valid."

Marineau-Mes came to BlackBerry in 2010 when then-Research In Motion purchased QNX and used that software to build the basis of the BlackBerry PlayBook and BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry insiders have long considered him to be one of the great talents on the team, and he's worked closely with QNX founder Dan Dodge for years.

It's hard to say what effect exactly this ruling will have on Marineau-Mes' status at BlackBerry and Apple. At the very least we can expect that it will push back his end date in Waterloo to June 23rd — or the 4-month delay could make Apple look elsewhere. For what it's worth, Apple's been down this road before. In 2008 Apple tried hiring Mark Papermaster away from IBM, but the transition was hung up on a no-compete clause that took several months to resolve. Apple's a patient company when they want to be, so if they really want Marineau-Mes, they'll wait. Until June.

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Derek Kessler

Managing Editor of Mobile Nations, Army musician, armchair pundit, and professional ranter.

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Reader comments

Apple hires BlackBerry's top software VP, BlackBerry wins court battle over departure

37 Comments

Brutal that Apple would want an executive that would show a complete lack of integrity and blatantly put his own interests ahead of the company's. Doesn't speak well to the culture at Apple that these are the type of people they would want.

It shows a total lack of gratitude, loyalty,class and mercenary attitude that someone would accept an extraordinary promotion when they clearly had mentally checked out and had no intention of staying

What did he do that was so bad? Also, you always look out for #1. I'd never put any company's interests ahead of mine and my families. You'd be quite the corporate drone to think otherwise. Or a rabid blackberry fanboy I guess...

What did he do? Did you bother reading the article or are you dense?
He signed a contract. Be a man and fulfil your obligations.

There's a LOT more facts here than just the article here presents. Had I been in his shoes I would have made the same advised steps.

Also, be a man? What is this, the 60's? I'll do whatever the hell I want for my best interests, as should he.

And I presume you have gotten to the role of a senior executive at a large public company with 3000 subordinates making into the millions with that attitude.

OK, I see what kind of person you are. You probably don't fulfil your obligations. You don't repay your debts. Your word and your signature are worth nothing. Gotcha.

Are you in the professional market? What is the effect on your career if everybody knew you don't respect contracts? Could you explain how can that be a little positive for the HR departments?

Are you joking? You think Apple knew in advance that he was supposed to give a 6 months notice, which is unusually long?

Secondly, did you read why he did what he did? From the court docs:

He makes the following arguments:

(i) The Contract offends the provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41 (“ESA”).

(ii) The Contract is unenforceable due to a material failure of consideration in that he did not assume the duties of EVP.

(iii) The six-month notice period is equivalent to a non-compete covenant and void as against public policy.

(iv) Pursuant to s. 4.5(b), Marineau-Mes had Good Reason to resign and as such is not required to provide six months’ notice.

BB decided to screw him over and he decided to quit instead. The problem is that he thought he had enough evidence to void the contract. BB disagrees and took him to court to force him to wait out 6 months.

The judge decided he doesn't and orders him to wait it out.

Nothing that suggests lack of integrity. As for putting his own interests ahead of company's interests, sorry but if everything he said was true, he had the right to consider his own future.

Any why did he sign it days before accepting Apple's offer? Speaks of his intelligence or lack there of. Good for BlackBerry on fighting this idiot.

He didn't agree to Apples offer for months after he signed the contract.

Did you bother reading the article or are you dense?

While he didn't sign anything with apple until December, he was in discussion with Apple in September. Since he signed his contract with Blackberry on September 27th, it is fair to assume that Blackberry noticed him shopping around and offered a contract to keep him. He agreed to this contract and signed it. He should have to live out the full length of the contract or pay a financial penalty.

Sometimes intention overshadows action. His intention for leaving could explain Apple's passive attitude toward the situation. I don't see anything dramatically wrong with what he's doing.

"It shows a total lack of gratitude, loyalty,class and mercenary attitude ..."

Never worked in the tech industry, have you? There's a brand new boom in Silicon Valley now, and this time it's not just idiotic dot-coms with cute domain names, no business plans, and no adult supervision. They're hiring like mad.

No, but what does that have do with fulfilling your contractual obligations. The guy signed in the dotted line and said he would give 6 months notice and then decides he wouldn't. That shows a complete lack of integrity.

Well if he signed this in September, isn't the six months done? Just because blackberry decided to wait to make it effective because of a self imposed freeze? I think this reeks if nationalism. Not that I have an issue with that. And not choosing Apple because it's Apple, because they really have little to do with this issue.

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Ah, thanks for clearing that up. He effectively have his notice in December. I was thinking he had to wait six months to leave.

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"Sebastien Marineau-Mes, BlackBerry's SVP of Software, is leaving the ailing smartphone manufacturer for brighter and warmer pastures: Apple"

Good move. What took him so long?

He had to find a company desperate enough to take him. I imagine It's kinda hard to find work when blackberry 10 is on the resume

Are you saying having a top class Real Time OS that almost makes possible for you to post your silly message to the world is not something to take in account? QNX runs on almost every router, most of the cars, space stations, nuclear plants, advanced life support machines, yet you idiot, think is not enough for a résumé? Are you kidding me or do you work for some Administration position?

And that's why BB is doing so smashing-ly well at the moment, it's a no brainer to want to stay at a company that is doing so great instead of working for Apple. It's not like Apple is doing any better.....

(that was sarcasm, btw)

Man, the die hards (by that, I mean the really rabid ones) are in this thread in force.

You certainly don't get to the top of a large company by worrying about everyone else, what you told anyone else, etc. you get to the top of a large company by looking out solely for yourself, making yourself look good to higher ups, taking credit when it is and isn't due, and stepping others toes when necessary. It's called competition.

Nothing new in business nowadays. This guy gave his word and signed to that effect that he would work for this company until such a time, and didn't keep to what he said. Then you have apple who know he has a contract go out and try to hire him anyway, instead of respecting he has a contract with BB. It doesn't matter if blackberry market share is dropping fast, he should've kept to what he promised and the contract. How can anyone trust him not doing it again or apple for not hiring other people on contract with other companies?

Wonder if they can reassign his job duties? Not sure why they want to keep paying him to be honest. However, I think it does show a lack of integrity on his part.

Only a business owner would understand this. You spend time and money to invest in an employee. They learn new things, including proprietary information, then they bail in you. A sign of his character. What's to say he won't do the same to Apple if someone else offers a bigger carrot.

Posted via the Android iMore App! on BlackBerry Z30

Exactly. As a employee, low rank employee btw, I do seek for opportunities from time to time, but I guess I cannot leave a company just like that if there is a commitment in the way.

This isn't just a bigger carrot -- it's a combination of probably being very unhappy at BlackBerry *and* getting a bigger carrot. From what I gather, he came to BB via their purchase of QNX, and I have to imagine he's not particularly thrilled with how things have panned out. There's a lot of finger-pointing to go around, but when the most positive thing that we can say is, "Well, at least it didn't flame out as badly as when Palm bought BeOS," that's not a ringing endorsement.

And sure, it's obviously a violation of his contract. But it's also patently obvious no one will be made happy by enforcing this; all BlackBerry gets out of it is delaying his exit, since whether or not he's still on their payroll we can reasonably assume he's not actually doing work for them now.

And last but not least: of course he might do the same to Apple; executives do tend to leave companies -- after years of service. You know, just like what he put in at BlackBerry. This "well, if he'd try to get out of a contract he must be a man of low moral character" routine is patent nonsense. If the man had been ruthlessly job-hopping to increase his power and salary, you'd have a case, but there's no sign of that; as near as I can find, he's been with QNX since at least 2000. Again, "Dear Lord, the guy might only give fifteen years to Apple! What a fly-by-night operator!" just doesn't carry a lot of weight.

I see both sides of the argument but I have to question how quick Blackberry was to take it to court? It seems like the turn around on this was quick so was it a thing where he puts his notice in and is immediately sued or was there some discussion between himself and the higher ups? Honestly, after someone has made up their mind to leave and they are in a position like this guy with as much as Blackberry has at stake in such a competitive market, do you really want him staying around and pissed off at you? I have been in corporate America before and it has always left a bad taste in my mouth. That's why I am my own boss now. Traditionally you give employers a minimum 2 week notice and more if you are in a higher up position. But, lets face it, if a company wants YOU gone your shit is out on the sidewalk within five minutes after they decide to free up your future. To say that loyalty is a two way street in these situations is a crock!