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This article was published on September 28, 2021

Microsoft CEO opens up about last year’s failed TikTok deal

"Strangest thing I've ever worked on"

Microsoft CEO opens up about last year’s failed TikTok deal
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Last year, companies like IBM, Oracle, and Walmart were vying to buy TikTok, after the Trump administration threatened to ban the short video app. However, the most prominent and likely firm to acquire the app was Microsoft.

The company registered interest in TikTok for the first time in August 2020. But as we know, no deal was finalized. A year later, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has shed some light on what happened.

Speaking at the Code Conference with Kara Swisher last night, the company head said that it was TikTok that came to Microsoft, and not the other way around:

First of all, you’ve got to remember, TikTok came to us, we didn’t go to TikTok. It was caught in between a lot of issues that they were having across two capitals, and they wanted to partner.

He added that ByteDance wanted a cloud security provider that also offered security services, and he found TikTok to be a ‘great property.’ Plus, Microsoft’s work on child safety made it a prime suitor.

The CEO argued that because Microsoft already has experience running social platforms, such as Xbox Live and LinkedIn, it wouldn’t have been difficult to operate the short video app.

Nadella said the discussion about acquiring TikTok happened because of some special requirements set by Trump’s government:

President Trump, I think he had sort of a particular point of view on what he was trying to get done there. Then I just dropped off. It was interesting. There was a period of time that I felt that the USG had some particular set of requirements, and then they just disappeared.

While the deal fell through, Nadella didn’t seem bothered about it. “I’m happy with what I have,” he said during the interview.

Incidentally, TikTok crossed the mark of 1 billion active users last night. But no regrets, right?

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