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Oracle Poaches Key IBM Cloud Exec

Business continuity chief Joanne Olsen to lead Oracle's cloud services group; IBM files lawsuit to block the move.
Senior IBM executive Joanne Olsen, a 31-year Armonk veteran and member of the company's elite Integration & Values Team, has resigned and is jumping ship to Oracle, InformationWeek has learned.

Olsen, who was IBM's general manager for Business Continuity and Resiliency Services, is to be named senior VP for Oracle's On Demand unit, which sells cloud-based versions of Oracle's business applications to enterprises.

Cloud services, which allow businesses to tap software over the Internet, is one of the IT market's hottest sectors and Olsen will report directly to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

IBM is looking to block the move. The company has filed a non-compete lawsuit against Olsen in New York State Supreme Court. It's the third such suit Big Blue has filed against one of its own executives in the past 20 months.

In court papers, IBM argues that Olsen violated her contract by accepting Oracle's offer.

"Oracle is a significant and major competitor of IBM and Oracle competes with the business units and divisions at IBM in which Ms. Olsen worked in the two years prior to the termination of her employment," IBM states in its complaint, filed June 16.

Earlier in the document, IBM notes that Olsen "has gained access to trade secrets and confidential information concerning the company's strategic plans, marketing plans, proprietary customer and distributor lists, and long-term business opportunites."

IBM claims Olsen has two non-compete agreements, the most recent of which she supposedly signed in July 2009. IBM sued Olsen for breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. It's asking the court to prohibit her from joining Oracle and is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

A judge has issued a temporary restraining order that blocks Olsen's move until further hearings, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Westchester.

"For years, Ms. Olsen received significant compensation in exchange for agreeing to non-compete provisions, and IBM expects her to honor that agreement. IBM intends to enforce those obligations to the full extent permitted by law," an IBM spokesman said.

An Oracle spokesperson declined to comment on Olsen's status at the company or on the lawsuit.

IBM has been quick to ask the courts to enforce its executives' non-compete agreements. As first reported by InformationWeek, IBM in May 2009 sued mergers & acquisitions chief David Johnson after Johnson disclosed his intention to join Dell.

In November 2008, IBM sued microchip expert Mark Papermaster, who left the company to head up Apple's iPhone development efforts. Both cases resulted in settlements that allowed Johnson and Papermaster to leave IBM under certain conditions.