Steve Ballmer says he never actually threw a chair at a departing employee.
The former Microsoft CEO and owner of the LA Clippers is known for his bursts of passion, from speaking at Microsoft product launches to cheering on his basketball team at games.
He is also infamous for a legend in which he threw a chair at former employee, Mark Lucovsky, after the engineer told Ballmer that he would be leaving Microsoft to join its competitor, Google.
The story was buried in a document from a lawsuit between Microsoft and Google. In it, Lucovsky’s team said the incident went like this:
“Prior to joining Google, I set up a meeting on or about November 11, 2004 with Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer to discuss my planned departure….At some point in the conversation Mr. Ballmer said: “Just tell me it’s not Google.” I told him it was Google.
At that point, Mr. Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room hitting a table in his office. Mr. Ballmer then said: “F—ing Eric Schmidt is a f—ing p–sy. I’m going to f—ing bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to f—ing kill Google.”
Ballmer said that’s not quite what happened in an interview for Business Insider’s podcast, “Success! How I Did It.”
“I kind of shook the back of the chair,” he said. “I’ll cop to that, so to speak. But I never threw a chair.”
Ballmer said that he told Lucovsky that he should stay at Microsoft, and he rattled a chair as he said it. He added that he does not think he would have had the strength to be able to throw a chair.
“I think it was healthy passion,” Ballmer said.
No word on whether or not he made those remarks about Google or Eric Schmidt, though.
Below, check out the episode with Ballmer explaining how he helped build Microsoft, or keep scrolling for a transcript of how he described the infamous incident.
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Here’s the part of the interview explaining the legendary chair incident:
Shontell: So about Google, you’re obviously a passionate person, which is great for rallying people up and getting them pumped. Sometimes, I’m sure, in management, you had to keep it in check a little bit. There was that famous story of your engineer leaving for Google. Can we talk about that chair incident? What happened that day?
Ballmer: Oh, it got overblown. Mark Lucovsky, who was the engineer, I had worked with for many years. I think the story was that I threw a chair, that’s not right. I shook —
Shontell: So you never threw the chair?
Shontell: Oh my god — OK we need to set history straight.
Ballmer: I kind of shook the back of the chair. I mean I shook one, I’ll cop to that, so to speak. But I never threw a chair.
Shontell: OK, the legend goes that he told you he was leaving for Google and you were like “Ahh!” and threw a chair. No chair thrown?
Ballmer: I said, “Mark, come on, you should stay.” And then I kind of rattled — “Come on, Mark.” I was rattling the back of a chair — I didn’t pick a chair up and throw it. I’m not even sure I’d have the strength to do that.
Shontell: Sounds like healthy passion then.
Ballmer: I think it was healthy passion.
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