Microsoft, Salesforce Talks Fizzled Over Price, Sources Say

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Key Speakers At 2014 The DreamForce Conference
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By David Faber

Microsoft (MSFT) and (CRM) had significant talks earlier this spring about a purchase of Salesforce by Microsoft, according to a number of people familiar with the situation. While the two sides failed to reach a deal and haven't re-engaged, the talks advanced to a level of detail that indicates they were serious.

Ultimately, the two companies remained far apart on a price, with Microsoft said to be willing to offer roughly $55 billion for the company, while its founder and CEO Marc Benioff is said to have kept raising his expectations to as high as $70 billion.

The deal envisioned Microsoft using a significant portion of its $95 billion cash pile to pay for Salesforce, but there was discussion of allowing Benioff to roll his 5.7 percent stake in Salesforce into Microsoft stock, while other shareholders would have gotten paid in cash. Benioff would have had a management role at Microsoft under the deal, according to people close to the talks.

Salesforce was engulfed in takeover rumors late last month when Bloomberg reported on an approach of an unnamed suitor that wasn't Microsoft, for the company. Bloomberg also reported earlier this month that Microsoft was evaluating a bid for Salesforce, but said no talks between the two companies were taking place. Both reports sent shares of Salesforce sharply higher.

The talks that did in fact take place between the two companies concluded by early May and aren't expected to re-emerge anytime soon. In addition to a disparity in price expectations, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella, who has been in the job for only 18 months, was said to be somewhat reluctant to pull the trigger on a deal of such size and consequence for his company.

Still, a number of people close to the talks believed they had the momentum to have reached a deal, until price became a defining road block.

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Salesforce, which has a leading position in customer relationship management software and cloud computing is thought to be a good fit for Microsoft, which is focused on gaining scale in those businesses.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment and a Salesforce spokesperson didn't return phone calls.
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