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Microsoft and Amazon reach truce allowing former AWS executive Charlie Bell to start in new role

Microsoft and Amazon reached an agreement that clears the way for former Amazon Web Services executive Charlie Bell to start his new job leading a newly formed cybersecurity engineering organization inside the Redmond tech company.

The breakthrough ends a standoff that lasted several weeks, avoiding a court fight over the terms of Bell’s non-compete agreement with Amazon.

“After constructive discussions with Amazon, Charlie Bell started his new role on October 11, focused on advancing cybersecurity capabilities that will benefit the tech sector and the broader economy,” said Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, responding to an inquiry from GeekWire on Monday.

We’ve contacted Amazon for comment on the situation.

Bell, a member of Amazon’s senior leadership team and a longtime linchpin of the company’s cloud business, left the Seattle company in August after more than 23 years. That news was followed two weeks later by reports that he had taken what was then an unspecified Microsoft role.

Microsoft confirmed later in September that it hired Bell to lead a new Security, Compliance, Identity, and Management group that brings together many of its existing teams in those areas as part of a broader initiative. In a memo to employees at the time, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Bell would “assume his job duties once a resolution is reached with his former employer.”

At the time, Microsoft cited its own efforts to reach similar resolutions with Amazon when Microsoft executives jumped ship for Amazon in the past. Amazon has been more aggressive in enforcing non-compete agreements in recent years, taking some former executives to court when they left to join rivals such as Google.

Bell had been considered a candidate to replace Andy Jassy as CEO of AWS after Jassy was named Amazon CEO. However, the top AWS role went to Adam Selipsky, the former CEO of Tableau Software in Seattle, who rejoined Amazon to lead the cloud business.

Non-compete agreements, which have been rendered virtually unenforceable in California, are still allowed in Washington state. However, under a state law passed in 2019, they can’t be applied to employees who make less than $100,000, and they can’t cover a period of more than 18 months, among other restrictions.

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