Eric Schmidt has shown a penchant for making enemies lately, but no former associate has publicly broken with the Google CEO as vehemently as John Sundman, the former Sun manager who fantasized about putting Schmidt's "teeth down his throat."
To Sundman, he's the guy who patronizingly obstructed access to Sundman's retirement savings when Sundman was unemployed 17 years ago, broke and caring for a very sick child. Sun had required Sundman to relocate to California, only to lay him off six months later. His wife's business had just failed, and his son was suffering seizures after emergency brain surgery.
Sundman didn't blame Schmidt, a higher up at Sun, for any of this, but he did need Schmidt's permission to cash out his 401(k) savings under the retirement plan's "hardship withdrawal" provisions. Sundman met with Schmidt, and was not at all charmed.
At the appointed time I go into his office & again relate my tale of woe, telling him how I really really need to touch this money of mine, now that Sun has kicked me in the nuts after first moving me across the country. I'm expecting Eric to grab his pen and sign whatever form he has to sign.
Instead, this smug little prick starts telling me how he understands money-worry because he's building a house and contractors keep going over budget. I swear to God this is a true story. That bastard was in very early at Sun and was, as he sat there, worth tens of millions of dollars. And I'm sitting there with no job, no money, and a child that I don't know from one day to the next whether he's going to live or die, and all I want is for Eric to sign the damn form so I can get my own damn money so that we can move back home to Massachusetts.
So Eric tells me that while he is sympathetic to my plight, he has his fiduciary responsibilities to consider, so I'll have to come back tomorrow to hear his decision after he's had time to think the matter over.
Sundman left the meeting politely and pleasantly and was granted his money the next day. Who knows, maybe Schmidt thought he'd be better protected legally if he thought things through, or needed to check with counsel. But his manner, including the line about his contractors going over budget, had made him an (apparently life-long) enemy: Sundman writes he wanted to "clock... his exalted highness Herr Docktor Scmidt."
And he later made Schmidt an inspiration for the villain in Acts of the Apostles, his well-reviewed novel about Silicon Valley. That was after Sundman made the jump from manager of a technical publications and information architecture team (at Sun) to freelance writer at publications like Salon.
Now, most bosses have an embittered ex-employee or three in their past, no doubt. But Schmidt seems to be grappling with more than his share of unpleasant exes lately; between Sundman and Bohner, Schmidt has faced two unflattering testimonials in the past month, both linked to book projects. It seems the Google CEO is catalyzing the free flow of information even when he would prefer not to. Speaking of which, if you've got a Schmidt story of your own, send it our way. We'd hate to think we were fixating on an unrepresentative sample, here.
(Pics: Via Flickr and Getty Images.)