Microsoft’s CFO Discusses Facebook Investment

    November 12, 2007

Chris Liddell, who serves as Microsoft’s chief financial officer, has defended the idea of spending $240 million on a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook.  His comments aren’t likely to reverse critics’ stances, however.

Chris Liddell

They’d already heard from Steve Ballmer, who, with his infamy for saying and doing odd things, is somewhat hard to take seriously.  Liddell might have provided some solid data, or at least a comment referring to statistics, in support of Microsoft’s decision.  But he didn’t.

“Obviously, I feel comfortable with the transaction we’ve done, and I was involved in it,” Liddell told Todd Bishop.  “I think you have to look at the investment not only in the context of the dollar investment but the commercial transaction.  I think there’s a great example of finance taking a role in that and thinking about the holistic aspect of what we’re trying to do in the online services, how Facebook fits into it, and how a dual investment-commercial transaction is a very powerful way of creating a partnership.”

Liddell did allude to stock prices, later adding, “[T]he share market reaction I think was positive.”  And indeed, for about eight days following the Facebook deal, Microsoft’s stock rose somewhat sharply.  It’s now lost more than half that gain, though, so the Redmond-based corporation doesn’t seem to have received much in the way of long-term benefits.

Microsoft’s decision to invest so much money in return for so little of Facebook remains questionable.  Yet at least the company’s leaders are willing to share whatever credit or blame they’ve earned.