The real reason Salesforce is complaining to regulators about the Microsoft-Linkedin deal


Marc Benioff


Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

Salesforce lost its bid to buy LinkedIn when LinkedIn decided to sell itself to Microsoft for$26.2 billion.


But Salesforce still hasn't given up on getting what it wants: access to LinkedIn's treasure trove of data.

Salesforce has been lodging protests with regulators over the deal in the US and in Europe, as first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by Business Insider.

This is less about blocking the deal from happening (although Salesforce probably wouldn't mind if that happened) and more about convincing regulators to put some conditions on the deal. Namely Salesforce wants to Microsoft to be forced to share LinkedIn data with others such as itself, just as it openly shares data today.

Both companies wanted to buy LinkedIn to get ahold of that data. LinkedIn is heavily used in areas like "social selling," where salespeople sift through LinkedIn profiles to find prospects. Microsoft will be integrating that data into its customer relationship management software, used by salespeople. Salesforce wanted the data for its own CRM software - Salesforce's flagship product.


If users of Salesforce's CRM are somehow locked out of using LinkedIn's data once the company belongs to Microsoft, that will be a major blow to the salespeople that use its software and, ultimately, to Salesforce itself.

In an emailed statement, Salesforce's chief legal officer Burke Norton said:

"Microsoft's proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition. By gaining ownership of LinkedIn's unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage.

Salesforce believes this raises significant antitrust and data privacy issues that need to be fully scrutinized by competition and data privacy authorities in the United States and in the European Union. We intend to work closely with regulators, lawmakers and other stakeholders to make the case that this merger is anticompetitive."

Microsoft doesn't seem especially worried. Microsoft says the deal has already received antitrust clearance in the United States and Canada.


In an emailed statement, Microsoft's chief legal officer Brad Smith said:

"Salesforce may not be aware, but the deal has already been cleared to close in the United States, Canada, and Brazil. We're committed to continuing to work to bring price competition to a CRM market in which Salesforce is the dominant participant charging customers higher prices today."

Microsoft expects to the acquisition to close before the end of this calendar year, it says.