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I never wanted to buy Twitter, ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says

Steve Ballmer told CNBC on Friday he never sought to purchase Twitter — responding to speculation that he and fellow billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal were looking to make a bid.

The former CEO of Microsoft and Al-Waleed are major shareholders of Twitter, which was recently said to be seeking buyout offers.

"I have never, ever, ever wanted to buy Twitter myself. I got a good life right now. I don't need to do that," the Los Angeles Clippers owner said on "Squawk Box." "I'm having a lot of fun with the Clips. I'm having a lot of fun with my wife, doing some stuff at the Ballmer Group that we think is fun philanthropically."

Google, Disney, and Salesforce were among the companies rumored to be initially interested. But one by one, they bowed out. Ballmer said he had thought Google could have been a good fit since it's already working to surface tweets in search.

"I don't think there's any substitute in the market [for Twitter]. It's sort of an irreproducible asset," said Ballmer, who also was critical of Jack Dorsey's arrangement as CEO of both Twitter and Square. "That's a weird deal."

"There is an asset there ... with the right time, with the right leader that thing could be really made into something great," Ballmer said.

"It's a really good company, obviously with some work to do. Just think about this election, would this election have been the same without Twitter, without [Donald] Trump banging out those late night tweets? I don't think so."

Ballmer also reflected on his time at Microsoft and what the company is doing right now. He said current CEO Satya Nadella is doing a good job building out Microsoft's cloud strategy, which boosted quarterly earnings and revenue.

Ballmer, whose fortune is largely in Microsoft stock, cheered Friday's premarket surge, which would put shares at their first all-time high since 1999.

The tech giant has made the transition from a company focusing on servicing personal computers to an enterprise company, he said. "It's a fantastic company."

Ballmer, who ran Microsoft from 2000 to 2014, said his worst mistake as CEO was the 2007, $6.3 billion acquisition of aQuantive, an online display ad firm. "It was probably what I'd call just, a blow into a gale force wind. It was dumb."

In 2012, Microsoft took a $6.2 billion writedown on the aQuantive deal.

Another ill-fated deal was Microsoft's $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's smartphone business. The deal, announced in 2013 shortly after Ballmer said he would be stepping down, was finalized in 2015.

A year later, Microsoft wrote off the purchase, and sold the assets to subsidiary of Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology and newly established firm HMD Global for $350 million.

Ballmer told CNBC: "The phone business, I'm not apologetic about. Current management chose to go in a different direction."



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