Salesforce butts heads with Microsoft on LinkedIn deal

Cue the butt head jokes because this is going down ugly. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it has entered a definitive agreement to acquire LinkedIn Corp. for an all-cash transaction valued at $26.2 billion. Under Microsoft, LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand and its CEO Jeff Weiner will retain his position but will directly report to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. LinkedIn, as most of us know, is an online professional network and community that is used by thousands of professionals in various industries. Microsoft hasn’t disclosed too much about what its vision is for acquiring the company, but there are countless theories about what they are going to do with it. One of my favorites is a lot like what they did with Skype for a long time: nothing. Still, LinkedIn remains the largest and most valuable professional network, allowing business professionals an avenue to expand their work connections. For months, it seemed the deal will go through without a hitch — until now. Inc. want regulators in the U.S. and in Europe to block the deal as the company perceives the deal will hurt competition. Salesforce believes the deal will give Microsoft too much access to the vast amount of professional data available on LinkedIn. Burke Norton, Salesforce’s chief legal officer, stated that the acquisition could give Microsoft an unfair advantage as it could block its rivals access to data regarding its membership.

“Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition,” Norton said in a statement.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s chief legal officer, stated that the deal has been cleared to close in the US, Canada, and Brazil, and is expected to completely close the deal by the end of 2016. Unfortunately, the deal may be hindered in Europe if its anti-trust watchdogs decide to dig deeper into the deal as it involves huge amounts of data.

While speaking to an audience in Brussels, Margrethe Vestager of Denmark, the region’s tough antitrust chief, stated that “a company might even buy up a rival just to get hold of its data.” Though she did not pinpoint the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal, it’s not hard to imagine it could open an investigation. She added “We are therefore exploring whether we need to start looking at mergers with valuable data involved.”

It might be a stretch of a legal maneuver, but Microsoft, being the company that it is, has a history of European antitrust actions against it, Euro-compliance, and other matters concerning everything else that Europe didn’t invent. Reading the tea leaves, it seems obvious that somebody would raise a legal stink in the most chickenshit way possible in all-too willing venue. That somebody is Salesforce.

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