Microsoft in standoff with Amazon over big hire, names Charlie Bell to lead ‘bold’ new security group

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Charlie Bell (LinkedIn Photo)

Microsoft confirmed that it has hired longtime Amazon Web Services leader Charlie Bell to lead a newly formed engineering organization to address cybersecurity and related issues, but said it has so far been unable to reach an agreement with Amazon over Bell’s non-compete contract with the company.

“We believe Charlie Bell’s new role can help advance cybersecurity for the country and the tech sector as a whole, and we are committed to continuing our constructive discussions with Amazon,” said Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, in a statement Wednesday morning. “We’re sensitive to the importance of working through these issues together, as we’ve done when five recent Microsoft executives moved across town to work for Amazon.”

GeekWire has contacted Amazon for comment.

Key executives who have moved from Microsoft to similar roles at Amazon in recent years include Ian Wilson, vice president of human resources for AWS; David Treadwell, senior vice president of e-commerce services for Amazon, and Shawn Bice, who left Microsoft in 2016 to become AWS vice president of databases before leaving to become president of products and technology for Splunk earlier this year.

In a memo to employees, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Bell “will assume his job duties once a resolution is reached with his former employer.”

“Charlie is a respected technology leader with a proven track record of building world-class platforms,” Nadella wrote. “The next big challenge for our company and our industry is securing digital technology platforms, devices, and clouds in our customers’ heterogenous environments. This is a bold ambition we are going after and is what attracted Charlie to Microsoft.”

Bell described the group and his motivations in more detail in a post on LinkedIn:

I’m thrilled to join Microsoft to take on one of the greatest challenges of our time, leading a newly formed engineering organization: Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management. As digital services have become an integral part of our lives, we’re outstripping our ability to provide security and safety. It’s constantly highlighted in the headlines we see every day: fraud, theft, ransomware attacks, public exposure of private data, and even attacks against physical infrastructure. This has been weighing on my mind and the best way I can think to describe it is “digital medievalism,” where organizations and individuals each depend on the walls of their castles and the strength of their citizens against bad actors who can simply retreat to their own castle with the spoils of an attack. We all want a world where safety is an invariant, something that is always true, and we can constantly prove we have. We all want digital civilization. I believe Microsoft is the only company in a position to deliver this and I couldn’t be more excited to work with this talented team to make the world safer for every person and organization on the planet.

Developing story, more to come.