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Marc Benioff on why LinkedIn was a good fit for Salesforce

He didn't go into details about his vision for Twitter, fearing the wrath of shareholders

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
October 27, 2016 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/47e3

This year has seen Salesforce get involved in the potential acquisitions of two major social networks: first LinkedIn, which was acquired by Microsoft for $26.2 billion, and then Twitter, which has so far not been bought by anyone.

Neither deal went through, of course, and whatever the combination of either Salesforce and LinkedIn, or, even more interestingly, Salesforce and Twitter, would have looked like will to remain in our collective imagination.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal's Dennis Berman at the WSJDLive conference on Wednesday, Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, addressed both companies, why he wanted to buy them and why neither one went through. 

LinkedIn

After it was announced that LinkedIn had sold to Microsoft, it was revealed that Salesforce had also made a bid for the company, with reports that it had been interested in the company's recruiting business.

In fact, Salesforce really, really wanted to buy LinkedIn. Even after the Microsoft announcement, Benioff was still trying to acquire the company

At WSJDLive, he talked about why LinkedIn would have fit in well with Salesforce, and its mission.

"Our vision for LinkedIn was, I think, very different from Microsoft's. We really liked some of the business fundamentals," he said.

"The reason that I liked LinkedIn was, I liked the business architecture. You know, I am a student, and somebody who really appreciates different business models. Our business model, there is a shell of it inside LinkedIn that we would would have amplified around deferred revenue. That's what I was really excited about. That I could see, right away, that I could provide immediate value to our shareholders by acquiriing it."

What Microsoft wants to do, he said. That company wants to commingle the data streams, and then "create a barrier to entry for other companies," something that Benioff says is illegal. 

Salesforce, along with other companies like Oracle and Infor, filed a complaint in Europe over Microsoft using LinkedIn "as a competitive weapon against other software companies."

“That's fine for most companies to say, but when you’re the largest software company in the world, which is Microsoft, you're different. You have to be treated differently,” he said.

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Twitter

Reports of Salesforce's interest in Twitter first surfaced in late September, at the same time that Google and Disney were also mulling a potential sale. Eventually Salesforce, like the other companies, dropped out.

“It’s not the right fit for us for many different reasons,” Benioff said in an interview with the Financial Times. “You’re going to look at price, you’re going to look at culture, you’re going to look at everything.”

Speaking at WSJDLive, though, Benioff made it sound like shareholders were spooked as a result of the leak.

"We obviously had a very exciting vision of what we would do with Twitter, and that's why we were involved in that," he said.

"We have looked at hundreds of companies, and we have done about 40 acquisitions. We've never had a deal leak before, so we don't really understand that dynamic. And, all of the sudden, the deal leaked and the stockholder's like, 'We like what's going on with Salesforce, we like your core, what are you doing? Stop.' We have to stop, because I'm running the business in partnership with my shareholders."

When asked what a Salesforce/Twitter integration would have looked like, Benioff didn't give any details.

"It's meaningless to talk about it because I don't want to inflame the shareholders. 


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