Microsoft had made other attempts to buy LinkedIn: Co-founder

Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn this year wasn't the first approach made by the U.S. technology giant to buy the firm, one of the professional networking site's founders told CNBC on Wednesday, who revealed he is "sad" about the deal.

Speaking to CNBC at the Slush technology conference in Helsinki, Finland, Konstantin Guericke said Microsoft had approached the company before he left in 2006. The Redmond-based firm said that if LinkedIn ever wanted to sell, the two parties should talk.

"Microsoft since the early days had a standing offer to our VCs (venture capitalists), saying look, if you want to sell the company talk to us, so it's not a surprise that Microsoft ended up doing the deal," Guericke told CNBC in a TV interview.

But the entrepreneur, along with other co-founders including current chairman Reid Hoffman, felt that the site still had a long way to grow at the time and didn't see the need to sell out.

Networking site for professionals LinkedIn has been taken over for a sum of just over 26 billion US dollars by Microsoft corporation.
Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images

“They (Microsoft) have always had a sort of line out. It was always difficult because we could see our business growing and so we always had a pretty high valuation in mind because we could see … how the company was going to evolve for the next few years, so there was always a high premium attached that didn’t really make sense for an acquirer to do,” Guericke said.

Google and recruitment website Monster also made bids for the company. LinkedIn eventually went public in 2011, and earlier this year Microsoft reached a deal to buy the professional networking site for $26.2 billion.

Guericke said he was “sad” about the LinkedIn acquisition and would have liked to see the technology company stay public, but that selling to Microsoft “makes sense”.


‘Make or break’ for Microsoft CEO

The LinkedIn deal was Microsoft's biggest acquisition to date, dwarfing the $7.2 billion it spent to buy Nokia's handset business in 2014. But the Nokia acquisition was a failure, resulting in write-offs exceeding $8 billion in total, as well as the axing of thousands of jobs.

Guericke said that the LinkedIn acquisition would work well only if Microsoft granted independence to the management team.

The co-founder didn't fear a repeat of the Nokia situation.

"I think it's very different situation. Nokia was not exactly thriving at the time when this happened. LinkedIn was thriving and it's kind of a career make-or-break for the Microsoft CEO (Satya Nadella) so I think it'll be handled differently, partly because of the lesson of Nokia," Guericke told CNBC.