Marc Benioff Just Got Real About His Plans to Buy LinkedIn and Twitter
Salesforce.com Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff spoke on Wednesday about a pair of key acquisitions that got away, suggesting his vision for LinkedIn was different from Microsoft’s and that he would have pursued Twitter if shareholders had not learned of his plans.
Speaking at a technology conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal in Laguna Beach, California, Benioff declined to elaborate on what he had hoped to do with micro-blogging site Twitter (TWTR).
Twitter hired bankers earlier in October to explore selling itself. Technology and media companies including Salesforce.com (CRM), Walt Disney (DIS) and Alphabet’s Google (GOOG) looked at the company but passed on buying it.
Some regarded Twitter as an unlikely fit for Salesforce.com, whose platform is popular among sales teams. Benioff said he was forced to drop the deal when investors began voicing concerns.
“We’ve never had a deal leak before; we don’t really understand that dynamic,” said Benioff, who is an avid Twitter user. “We had to stop because I’m running the business in partnership with my shareholders.”
Benioff was also effusive about his interest in professional social networking site LinkedIn (LNKD), which Microsoft (MSFT) agreed to buy for $26.2 billion in June. Benioff told technology news website Recode in June that Salesforce.com made a bid for LinkedIn and was primarily interested in its recruiting business.
Benioff on Wednesday said he saw parallels between Salesforce.com’s business model and LinkedIn’s.
“We really liked some of the business fundamentals,” he said, adding few details on his vision for an acquisition of LinkedIn.
He contrasted that vision with Microsoft’s, which he said centered on mingling the companies’ data streams to make it difficult for other companies to compete. Salesforce.com has raised concerns about the deal to European antitrust regulators.
“Last time I checked, that was illegal,” he said of Microsoft’s plans for LinkedIn’s data.
Microsoft said it was confident it would gain final regulatory approval for the LinkedIn acquisition by the end of 2016.
“We’re committed to continuing to work to bring price competition to a CRM (customer relationship management) market in which Salesforce is the dominant participant charging customers higher prices,” a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed statement.