Tech Industry

Details emerge of Microsoft's failed Facebook buy

We knew Microsoft invested a chunk of money in Facebook back in 2007, but now we get a bigger picture of what could have been and why it didn't happen.

While the dollar figure and partnership details of Microsoft's investment in Facebook back in 2007 were made public, one detail that had not been discussed by either company was that Microsoft had made a valiant effort to acquire the social network outright.

That much was confirmed this morning at the Le Web conference in Paris by Fritz Lanman, Microsoft's senior director or corporate strategy and acquisitions, TechCrunch reports. Speaking to Le Web conference organizer Loic Le Meur as part of a panel on "how to get acquired," Lanman shared details on how the deal had gotten away from Microsoft--from the point of Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer trying to buy Facebook outright for $15 billion, to what ended up being the landmark $240 million investment.

According to Lanman, when Ballmer had suggested that initial $15 billion figure, which had been derived from a recent valuation, Facebook's co-founder Mark Zuckerberg shot it down because he didn't want to lose control. "Ballmer took this reply as sort of challenge," Lanman said. "He went back to Microsoft's headquarters and concocted a plan intended to acquire Facebook in stages over a period of years to enable Zuckerberg to keep calling the shots."

Lanman said that plan ended up falling through, and lead to what became the very public ad investment that went down near the end of 2007.

Facebook was an acquisition target for a number of companies back in 2007. Other suiters at that time also included Yahoo and Google, the later of which has a notorious history of grabbing deals away from Microsoft at the last moment, as detailed in David Kirkpatrick's The Facebook Effect. The fact that it remains its own company continues to be attributed to Zuckerberg's need to be in the driver's seat.

Since the deal, Microsoft and Facebook have collaborated on a number of new features together, including social search results in Bing, and, a Web-based word processor that can be used within Facebook. The two companies' most recent partnership rolled out as part of Facebook's chat and e-mail overhaul, which lets users open up Microsoft Office and PDF attachments using Microsoft's document viewer.