The meeting that made Marc Benioff run away from a deal with Microsoft

Ina Fried
Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff speaks during a forum.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

While Microsoft and Salesforce have been partners — and at times considered being even more than that — Marc Benioff says the relationship has soured, in part because the new Microsoft is too much like the old one.

In particular, Benioff pointed to a meeting that was set up between him and Scott Guthrie, who was then running Microsoft Azure, the company's cloud-based operating system.

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A few weeks after the meeting, Benioff learned that Guthrie was taking over as head of the CRM business that competes directly with Salesforce. "I was just very kind of surprised by this," Benioff said Monday, speaking at Code Enterprise in San Francisco. "It's not something I would do. Things like that kept happening."

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Things escalated when Salesforce found itself invited and then uninvited to a Microsoft partner conference, Benioff said.

Salesforce and Microsoft have always had something of a complicated relationship, being partners, competitors and even potential participants in a merger.

More recently, though, the rivalry has turned bitter. In addition to the issue with Guthrie, Microsoft and Salesforce were also in a bidding war over LinkedIn. Benioff actually offered more for LinkedIn, and said he was even willing to go higher.

Benioff has warned that Microsoft could be violating antitrust laws by combining its powerful position in office software with LinkedIn's data, asking officials in Europe to look into the matter.

By Ina Fried, Re/

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