Lee Kai-fu, the former Microsoft executive caught in the tug-of-war between two feuding tech giants, is prized as much for his knowledge of Chinese government officials and business practices as for his technical knowledge. Microsoft is seeking a preliminary injunction in a Seattle court to prevent Mr Lee working for arch-rival Google pending a full trial scheduled for January. Described as an 'all-star' by Google and 'a key person in all the things we did' by Microsoft, court documents clearly reveal the multifacets of a man generously perceived in some quarters as a victim in the present showdown. Google's all-star opinion stems from the virtual idolisation afforded Mr Lee by former colleagues and underlings from various stints in China on behalf of Apple Computer and Microsoft. 'I am writing to you trying to explore the possibility of following you back to China,' wrote one unnamed acquaintance on hearing of Mr Lee's appointment to Google. 'I believe this is the best opportunity to do something truly exciting and big. You are a legendary leader.' Mr Lee also spoke of his own sense of responsibility in his court declaration. 'As a bi-cultural person working in the technology industry, I wanted to help Chinese students understand the constructive and positive aspects of American values.' Mr Lee uses his website, which has 40,000 registered users, to answer questions and give advice to young people in the technology industry in China. But this benevolent, uncle-type figure represents only part of the picture, as Microsoft was quick to point out. In court, Microsoft's lawyers tried to paint a picture of Mr Lee as untrustworthy, noting that he negotiated his employment with Google while he was on sabbatical approved by Microsoft. 'It is interesting that the judge directed one of his few questions during the proceedings to Mr Lee on the subject of whether he had been entirely truthful in one of his answers,' Microsoft deputy general counsel Tom Burt told the South China Morning Post. Mr Lee's e-mails during those negotiations with Google, submitted as evidence to the court, reveal a man assured of his own value and urging Google to pull out all the stops to aid his relocation to China. Despite being offered a compensation package of US$250,000 a year in basic salary, a US$2.5 million signing bonus, another US$1.5 million bonus after a year and up to US$5 million of Google stock over four years, Mr Lee sought further compensation to aid in selling his house in Washington. Google vice-president for business operations Shona Brown bristled in an e-mail to a colleague: 'We are giving [Lee] a huge, unprecedented sign-on of US$2 million. I'm inclined to tell him to pay it out of that!' Mr Lee included unnamed 'unethical business practices' engaged in by Microsoft in China as a reason for leaving, but was willing for Google to pull out all the stops to get his two children into the Beijing International School - 'the only decent school in Beijing'. 'I know that Microsoft could influence them to move up someone on the waiting list, but I don't suppose you can do that since you do not have a large number of employees with enrolled students,' he said in an e-mail to Google's Keith Wolfe. Clearly, however, here was a man disillusioned with Microsoft's work in China, and he appears from e-mails to have made up his mind to accept the Google offer from early on in the negotiations. As Microsoft alleged in court, Mr Lee sent his first e-mail to Google the day after he found out about the company's plans for the mainland. Mark Lucovsky Former Microsoft employee describing chief executive Steve Ballmer's behaviour in a meeting on November 2004 'I told Mr Ballmer that it was not working out for me at Microsoft, that Microsoft and I have different interests and a different culture, and that I intended to leave Microsoft. Mr Ballmer asked me to stay. At some point in the conversation, Mr Ballmer said: 'Just tell me it's not Google.' I told him it was Google. At that point, Mr Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room, hitting his office table. Mr Ballmer then said: 'F****** Eric Schmidt is a f****** p****. I'm going to f****** bury that guy. I have done it before and I will do it again. I'm going to f****** kill Google'.'