Microsoft admits it tried to buy Facebook (for $15 billion)

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At the Le Web conference in Paris, Microsoft’s Fritz Lanman, senior director of corporate strategy and acquisitions, admitted that Microsoft indeed has tried to purchase Facebook.

“Yeah we tried to acquire Facebook” Lanman told Le Web founder Loic Le Meur. “Facebook had a lot of similarities to Microsoft back in the day.”

The admission gives more credence to some selections from David Kirpatrick’s book: The Facebook Effect, reports TechCrunch. The book quotes Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offering Mark Zuckerberg $15 billion to buy Facebook and Zuckerberg denying him. A two paragraph excerpt from the book is below.

“Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had flown to Palo Alto to visit his young counterpart twice. As Zuckerberg is wont to do, he took Ballmer on a long walk. Zuckerberg told Ballmer that Facebook was raising money at a $15 billion valuation. But Ballmer had come with something more sweeping in mind. “Why don’t we just buy you for $15 billion?” he replied, according to a very knowledgeable source. Zuckerberg was unmoved even by this offer. “I don’t want to sell the company unless I can keep control,” said Zuckerberg, as he always did in such situations.”

“Ballmer took this reply as a sort of challenge. 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. But Zuckerberg rejected all the overtures. What Ballmer finally agreed to instead was an advertising deal that included a provision for Microsoft to pay a huge amount, $240 million, for a sliver of Facebook, 1.6%. Microsoft’s investment gave Facebook an implied value of $15 billion.”

Recently, Facebook has integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine and is supporting Microsoft Office docs in its new Social Inbox email/messaging system.

Zuckerberg seems to care more about his vision for Facebook than money. His recent pledge to donate half his wealth to charity and his $100 million gift to a school on Oprah back up this idea. Also interesting is the fact that he likes walks. After Facebook rejected Ping, Steve Jobs and Zuckerberg were seen taking a walk together near Jobs’ home.

Do you think it would have been smart for Facebook to sell to Microsoft? Would you like to take a walk with Mark Zuckerberg? If so, where? A beach? The forest?