Bill Gates talked to Reid Hoffman about being on Microsoft’s board of directors

Bill Gates
Bill Gates Getty/Alex Wong

On May 9th, not too long after Microsoft and LinkedIn began their initial talks about the possibility of an acquisition, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman held a private meeting that had been previously scheduled.

Normally, you never get to find out what happens when business leaders hold meetings like this.

But because of LinkedIn’s new filing with the SEC, where it has to lay out the order of events leading to Microsoft’s $26 billion purchase, we have a sense of how it went.

Here’s the upshot:

At their meeting, they discussed their perspectives regarding industry trends and the strategy of LinkedIn. The parties also discussed the business rationale and potential benefits to Microsoft of potentially acquiring LinkedIn. Mr. Gates and Mr. Hoffman briefly discussed Mr. Hoffman’s potential involvement with the business following a transaction, including, among other things, his possibly serving on Microsoft’s board of directors, but the parties did not pursue that conversation, instead focusing on their respective visions for a combined company.

Reading between the lines here, it sounds like Gates and Hoffman are at least entertaining the idea of bringing Hoffman on to help formally guide the company.

Gates has even gone on the record to say that LinkedIn could be as valuable to Microsoft as the News Feed is to Facebook.

Jeff Weiner, Satya Nadella, Reid Hoffman
Jeff Weiner (left), Satya Nadella (middle), Reid Hoffman (right) Microsoft

Microsoft could do a lot worse — beyond Hoffman’s experience starting LinkedIn, the professional social network that rose to become a jewel in Silicon Valley’s crown, he’s also a superstar investor in his own right with prominent venture capital firm Greylock Partners.

Furthermore, Gates and Hoffman have a lot in common: They both hold board seats and advisory roles, and no other formal status or day-to-day obligations, at the tech companies they founded.

And with other bidders like Salesforce very interested in buying the company, it does raise the question of whether or not Hoffman’s conversation with Gates helped steer LinkedIn towards Microsoft’s waiting arms.

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