Groupon Sues Ex-Sales Managers It Claims Defected to Google, Took Secrets

Groupon Inc. accused two former sales managers in a lawsuit of taking confidential trade secrets with them when they quit the Internet coupon company to join a competing venture run by Google Inc. (GOOG)

Michael Nolan, who worked for Groupon for two years, and Brian Hanna, who joined the Chicago-based company in January, each left last month to join Google Offers, according to a civil complaint filed yesterday in an Illinois court. Google, based in Mountain View, California, isn’t named in the suit.

“In their new positions with Google Offers and/or Google, Hanna and Nolan will provide the same or similar services as they provided at Groupon,” requiring them “to employ confidential and proprietary information that they learned while employed at Groupon,” according to the complaint.

The men are accused of breaching promises to protect Groupon information including customer lists and sales and marketing plans. The company seeks a court order preventing them from doing so.

Groupon last year rejected a $6 billion acquisition offer from Google, operator of the world’s most visited Internet search site. The world’s biggest online coupon site, Groupon is seeking an $11.4 billion valuation in an initial public offering of 30 million shares priced at $16 to $18 apiece, according to its Oct. 21 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Jim Prosser, a Google spokesman, said company officials had not seen the Groupon complaint and that he could not comment on it. He declined to speak on behalf of Hanna and Nolan.

Hanna and Nolan live in Chicago, according to the Groupon filing. They could not immediately be located for comment.

The case is Groupon Inc. v. Hanna, 11CH36731, Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court, Chancery Division (Chicago).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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