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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

January 8, 2008 at 2:22 PM

Pure speculation: Could Storm co-buyer bend Ballmer’s ear on Sonics?


A group of Seattle women, led by former Seattle Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson, and including Microsoft executive Lisa Brummel, second from right, and former executive Dawn Trudeau, third from right, is buying the team from the Sonics ownership group for $10 million.

One of the Seattle women buying the Storm WNBA franchise from Clay Bennett is a senior Microsoft executive. Lisa Brummel, senior vice president of human resources, has a close relationship with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, whose name has been floated as a could-be white knight to keep the Sonics in Seattle.

Another buyer is Dawn Trudeau, who was general manager of the Consumer Product Group at Microsoft, leaving the company in 1998, after 14 years, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman.

The story of how Brummel came to be the boss of human resources is well known. It involved some heavy recruiting by Ballmer.

Here’s an excerpt from a profile of Brummel I wrote in 2006:

Brummel, 46, grew up in Westport, Conn., received a degree in sociology from Yale and started her career selling college textbooks. She was recruited by Microsoft while finishing an MBA at University of California at Los Angeles.

She spent 16 years in a variety of management roles throughout Microsoft’s product groups before reluctantly accepting the top human-resources post. During an evening meeting in her office, she said “no” three times before Chief Executive Steve Ballmer persuaded her to assume responsibility for keeping a global work force happy and aligned with company goals.

Other reporters have described the recruiting session even more vividly. The best is this excerpt from a September 2007 Business Week story:

When Ballmer floated the HR job in April, 2005, Brummel said: No way. But Ballmer wasn’t about to take no for an answer. Picking up a traveling golf putter, the Microsoft chief started taking it apart as he barreled around Brummel’s office, hammering home why she was the perfect candidate. As an outsider unsullied by HR dogma, he said, she’d bring a fresh approach. Besides, Ballmer argued, Brummel was hugely popular and had the people skills to get the job done. The two went back and forth, with Ballmer slapping Brummel’s whiteboard for emphasis and Brummel parrying with: “But I love doing products.” After more than two hours, Ballmer ended the meeting. By then the putter was in pieces. “Sorry about the golf club,” he said.

I don’t know much about the economics of pro basketball franchises, but I’ll guess it would be better to keep NBA and WNBA franchises together as a matched set.

Maybe Brummel and her co-owners see it the same way. And maybe in an office up in Building 34 on Microsoft’s campus, Brummel will disassemble a putter and slap Ballmer’s whiteboard in an attempt to get him to buy the Sonics and keep them in town. They could even build a new arena for the team and give naming rights to Microsoft.

And, of course, Microsoft Stadium (aka the X Box) would be perfectly suited to host the company’s annual all-employee meeting.

(Full disclosure: I like basketball and I’d like to see the Sonics stay, too.)

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