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DoubleClick Turned Down Microsoft’s Higher Bid

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The irony of Microsoft crying antitrust in the Google/DoubleClick buy is starting to make more sense: it may be sour grapes, and a regulatory approach may free up DoubleClick for themselves, or at least stop Google from cornering the market.

DoubleClick Turned Down Microsoft's Higher Bid
DoubleClick Turned Down Microsoft’s Higher Bid

That’s a somewhat cynical sum-up, certainly oversimplified, and maybe even a little unfair (there, I’ve said it so you don’t have to) – sometimes it’s just business. But the whole thing becomes really interesting when you learn Microsoft offered more for DoubleClick than Google did, and still got turned down.

DoubleClick put its eggs in Google’s basket, instead of Microsoft’s, for less money – as if business relationships have evolved into star-crossed, money-can’t-buy-love affairs. But we all know that’s bull, right?

John Battelle, who broke that news, rightly questions the reasons behind it:

The more I think about it, the more the fact that DBCLK went to Google strikes me as a seminal moment in the history of this industry. Microsoft could not win it, despite the cash it was willing to spend. Why?!

According to that lengthy blog post, Battelle will have to think on it a bit and make some  more contacts to make sense of the for-love-or-money outcome (like in most things, why-is isn’t nearly as important as what-is – but that’s a whole other discussion).

Former Microsoftie Robert Scoble has some suggestions about why a company would turn down a larger offer, including company reputation, employee benefits, better long-term options, more influence, location (at which point we get into a host of arbitrary justifications). But the most interesting one was Robert’s first suggestion:

Better cultural fit. I’ve seen that some employees are real jerks during negotiations and can sour a suitor on that person’s company.

At the end of March, back when this deal was a just a gleam in Microsoft’s eye, when there rumors were circling via the PR machine about Microsoft’s affection for DoubleClick (and DoubleClick’s high brideprice), Google didn’t even appear to be in the courtship picture.

Briefly-put, DoubleClick wanted $2 billion, and Microsoft seemed to do a spit-take at the suggestion. Don Dodge, Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team, blogged rather convincingly about billion-dollar gambles, and devalued the DoubleClick to about $600 million – a fifth of the final price.

And then, two weeks later, we learn Microsoft offered more than Google, and lost? Something happened. Microsoft had a change of heart or executives were blowing smoke during negotiations to keep the price down. Or maybe Google was a dark horse competitor, swooping in to take the maiden. And now Microsoft’s double-pissed off.

Last week, David Utter noted the odd timing to Microsoft’s and AT&T’s antitrust complaints, arising just 48 hours after the news broke. Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick is a market-cornering move – a market Microsoft and AT&T would rather have cornered for themselves.

The quick antitrust filing could mean that as soon as Microsoft realized they’d lost that market, they began preparing for the fight to get it back.

DoubleClick Turned Down Microsoft’s Higher Bid
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