Steven Sinofsky Microsoft payoff includes no-criticism clause

Steven Sinofsky Microsoft payoff includes no-criticism clause

Ex-Windows chief Steven Sinofsky takes vow of silence

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Microsoft's former head of Windows 8 development has agreed not to badmouth Microsoft or work for some of its competitors and in return will receive a payout for unvested stock in the company, according to a regulatory filing Wednesday.

The "retirement agreement" with Steven Sinofsky, who left Microsoft in November after leading the development of its Windows 8 OS and Surface tablet, is described by Microsoft in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sinofsky has agreed to not compete with Microsoft by accepting a job at certain competitors, which were not named, or encouraging customers to move away from its products. He's also agreed not to solicit Microsoft employees to work at other companies, not to "disparage" Microsoft and not to take part in any litigation against the company, the filing says.

In return, Microsoft will pay Sinofsky the value of his outstanding unvested stock options up to the start of Microsoft's 2013 fiscal year, which began last July, and award him other stock compensation.

It didn't provide a dollar figure for the agreement but it said Sinofsky had stock award agreements totaling 418,361 shares, which at Wednesday's closing price would be worth $14.2 million.

Windows 8 marked a dramatic shift for Microsoft. In particular, it included a completely new touch interface intended to help Microsoft and its PC making partners compete better with Apple's iPad and other tablets.

Some of the changes in the OS haven't been received well by users, however, and Microsoft is updating the software with Windows 8.1, which will reinstate some features like the ability to boot straight to the Windows desktop instead of the new tile interface.

In a statement Wednesday, Microsoft said the stock award to Sinofsky was in part to recognize his long service at the company.

"Given Steven's 23 years of strong service at Microsoft, which included leading teams that produced six versions of Office and two versions of Windows, the company will continue to provide him with the economic value of the stock awards he earned during his employment, similar to the retirement benefits we provide employees who work at least 15 years and retire at 55 or older," Microsoft said.

The agreement also provides other considerations for Microsoft, including "a commitment that Steven will continue assisting with intellectual property litigation until January 1, 2017."

Microsoft didn't identify any lawsuits Sinofsky might currently be helping with and a spokesman declined to comment further. The statement could mean that Sinofsky will be available to assist with any lawsuits should they arise.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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