23 March, 2023

Go read this report on how Microsoft’s TikTok investment turned into a ‘soap opera’

‘A small investment morphed into a big, messy, political soap opera’

Over at the New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Mike Isaac spoke to “more than a dozen people” familiar with Microsoft’s plans to buy TikTok in order to tell the full “political soap opera:”

What started as discussions about a small investment morphed into a big, messy, political soap opera. Pushed by President Trump, who has ordered TikTok’s U.S. operations to be sold or to cease operating, ByteDance is now discussing selling parts of TikTok’s global operations to several potential bidders. And with so many groups jumping into the talks to get a piece of any deal, all are trying to drive their own interests and agendas.

What’s interesting is seeing how TikTok’s initial talks with Microsoft about a small investment back in July have morphed into something far bigger and out of its control. TikTok-maker ByteDance reportedly wanted to reduce the amount of pressure it was facing from the US government, and Microsoft wanted to lure TikTok over to its Azure cloud computing service. Having skillfully evaded most of the antitrust scrutiny being leveled at the other major tech companies, Microsoft emerged as a frontrunner to take an even larger share of the business as White House pressure intensified:

ByteDance and Microsoft came to see an acquisition of TikTok’s U.S. operations as a cleaner option, they added. Microsoft could allow TikTok to operate as a stand-alone unit, similar to how it had treated past large acquisitions, such as its $2.5 billion acquisition of the company behind the video game Minecraft in 2014 and its $26 billion purchase of professional networking site LinkedIn in 2016.

Now, of course, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. Between President Trump ordering a sale of TikTok’s US operations by November 12thother companies like Oracle emerging as potential buyers (though Microsoft is still thought to be the frontrunner), and TikTok suing the Trump administration over an alleged lack of due process, it’s unclear what the next twist in this soap opera is going to be. The New York Times’ report does a great job at laying out how we’ve got to this point and it’s well worth a read.