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A high-tech vice president claims he was forced out of his job when his bosses learned he was a Muslim Arab a few weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Blaming his departure on thwarted ambition and greed, the company says he quit when he couldn’t structure a deal the way he liked. In a trial that began Tuesday, jurors heard those two versions of events leading up to Walid Maghribi’s departure from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in February 2002. Maghribi, a Lebanese-American, sued the Silicon Valley chipmaker in April 2002, alleging racial and religious discrimination. In July, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel denied summary judgment, ruling that the case could go to trial, “particularly in the highly sensitive context of the Sept. 11 attacks.” On Wednesday, attorney Allen Ruby described his client, Maghribi, as a 15-year-veteran of AMD who rose through the ranks, becoming head of the profitable memory-chip division. But Maghribi, 51, saw his career at AMD slip away after answering questions about his faith at a corporate dinner, Ruby said. “This will be an inquiry into how it was that a wonderful career of 15 years ended in 42 days,” said Ruby, with San Jose’s Ruby & Schofield. But AMD’s attorney, Lynne Hermle, said Maghribi didn’t leave because of discrimination. Maghribi left because he couldn’t structure a deal that would have resulted in an initial public offering and millions in earnings for Maghribi, she said. “Walid Maghribi told people, ‘We will have an IPO, and it will make us rich,’” said Hermle, a partner with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. “This is about an executive who quit because he could not manipulate an important business deal. He wanted to be the CEO of a public company. Unfortunately, his objective was not the objective of AMD. He quit when the deal was not structured to suit his needs.” While Ruby and Hermle disputed why Maghribi left, both agreed that religion and race did come up at an October 2001 dinner party attended by Maghribi, CEO and Chairman Jerry Sanders and President Hector Ruiz. Dinner conversation turned to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Sanders, at one point, turned to Maghribi and asked if he was Christian. Maghribi identified himself as Muslim Arab. Ruby described Sanders’ reaction as “red-faced and emotional.” Hermle said the conversation was quiet and “nothing more than the interest Mr. Sanders has in the people who work for him.” The next evening at another dinner party, Ruiz, who is Mexican-American, told an anecdote about Muslims and Mexicans. Ruby characterized it as an off-color joke that Maghribi found upsetting. Hermle said it was a true story, with Ruiz explaining that he was, at times, misidentified as other nationalities. Both sides also agreed that an important business deal was in the works. AMD, which has $5.6 billion in assets, was trying to renegotiate its decadelong joint venture with Japan’s Fujitsu Ltd. Maghribi was overseeing the negotiations. Ruby said management had signed on to a negotiating strategy in October. But Sanders and Ruiz seemed to change the company’s position on the deal after the October dinners, Ruby said. The pair pushed Maghribi to negotiate positions that would insult Fujitsu and were impossible to achieve, Ruby said, with Sanders demanding Maghribi ensure that AMD would control all sales resulting from the joint venture. During a December 2001 dinner, Ruiz told Maghribi, “I think what you should do is tell Fujistu that we will buy their flash-memory business for $1.” “There would never be a joint venture on those terms and everybody knew it,” Ruby said. But Hermle said Maghribi clashed with Ruiz, who became president of AMD in 2000. Maghribi pushed for a deal that profited him personally and wasn’t in line with AMD’s goals. “Mr. Maghribi, faced with the knowledge that his deal wasn’t going to happen, resigned,” Hermle said. Hermle, reading from Maghribi’s resignation e-mail, said he never listed discrimination as a reason for leaving. “He didn’t run out of the office. He stayed for months, traveling, working and having lunches with his staff,” Hermle said. Maghribi resigned on Dec. 5, 2001, and stayed with the company through February 2002. More than a year later, Hermle said, AMD formed another joint venture with Fujitsu, reaching many of the terms first discussed with Maghribi.

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