Booze, sex 'rife' at Microsoft, says former exec

Allegations of boozing and sexual harassment at Microsoft have been titillatingly laid bare in a £10 million court battle between the company's UK chief and his former second in command.

Ex-Microsofty Simon Negus (pictured) was dismissed from the company in 2010 following allegations that he had kissed a colleague, Toni Knowlson, at a company party in Atlanta, and then lied about it in a company probe into the affair.

Negus, 50, was accused of "flirting [with] and touching" Knowlson, alongside allegations that he had asked another colleague, Zobia Chughtai, to "flutter her eyelashes". A third woman, Martina Redmond, was allegedly asked stand on a chair so that her short skirt could be admired.

The company's internal inquiry failed to prove allegations that Negus - who is married - had conducted a campaign of sexual harassment, but the manager was fired. Microsoft sued him, demanding he return £75,000 of the £225,000 'golden hello' payment he had received when he joined the firm on condition that he stay for three years. Negus has now launched a counter-claim, suing his former employer for 15 years' loss of earnings, harassment and wrongful dismissal.

Negus accuses his former boss, Gordon Frazer, of colluding with Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, to get rid of him.

He also accuses Frazer of presiding over a culture of debauchery at the IT giant. In court papers, Negus recalls a Microsoft annual sales conference at which he alleges "drunkenness and outrageous misbehaviour were rife".

"The alcohol made freely available in unlimited quantities included neat vodka which could be drunk from an ice fountain, and a very strong German liquor called Jagermeister," recounts Negus.

A Microsoft spokesman told the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper that it was "inappropriate to comment" [hic] on an ongoing court case.