In flusher times, Google geeks set the agenda for company sales executives; distracting sidelines were encouraged. The recession — assisted by a new sales chief who apparently doesn't mind his diabolical reputation — foreclosed on such coddling.

Nikesh Arora joined Google's London office four years ago. In April, he was tapped to replace global sales chief and Google "business founder" Omid Kordestani, who left with $1.4 billion in net worth amid company cutbacks.

In the intervening month, we hear, quite a few Google execs have come to regard Arora with distaste, cementing his reputation for sharp elbows and a sometimes unfriendly approach — at least among many of the notoriously-pampered Googlers. (That's Arora in the picture above, seizing the "Prince of Asturias Award for Comunication and Humanities" at an event held in Spain by Google co-founder Larry Page in October 2008.)

The upshot? A dark nickname within the Google empire: "Darth Vader."

Perhaps being disagreeable to the Google rank and file is precisely the point, as far as Arora is concerned. Even those Googlers who dislike the executive are said to respect his sales acumen, we are told. Which makes sense: Overt assholes are rare in Google's culture. So Nikesh must be good at bringing in the bucks if he's nasty.

And there could hardly be a better time to trade pleasantries for cash.

(Still, we'd love to hear details of Arora's behavior — from detractors and supporters alike.)

(UPDATE: Comments enabled; they were off for several hours due to a tech glitch.)