Microsoft CEO says company's failed TikTok deal ‘strangest thing I've worked on'

Microsoft Corp, TikTok, Donald Trump, talks on the proposed acquisition, deal collapsed by September, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming, Joe Biden, reviewing national security concerns

Microsoft Corp chief executive Satya Nadella said the company’s bid last year to acquire the US assets of hit short video-sharing app TikTok was the “strangest thing I’ve ever worked on”.

Speaking at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on Monday, Nadella said he was looking forward at the time to bringing Microsoft’s security, child safety and cloud expertise to TikTok.

TikTok had been ordered by then-US President Donald Trump to separate its US assets from Chinese parent ByteDance because of national security concerns about the collection of US users’ data. Microsoft began talks on the proposed acquisition in August 2020, but the deal collapsed by September.

Trump’s divestment push ended by the time he left office in January and no potential suitor ended up acquiring TikTok.

“It’s unbelievable,” Nadella said of the experience during an onstage interview at the Code Conference. “I learned so many things about so much and so many people. First of all, TikTok came to us. We didn’t go to TikTok.”

“TikTok was caught in between a lot of things happening across two capitals,” he said. “President Trump had a particular point of view of what he was trying to get done there, and then it just dropped off. The [U.S. government] had a particular set of requirements and then it just disappeared.”

Nadella said what attracted ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming to Microsoft was the US company’s services related to content moderation and child safety, developed through products included in Xbox video gaming tools and on business social network LinkedIn.

ByteDance did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nadella said he has no idea whether the US is still pushing for a deal under President Joe Biden. The Biden administration has said it is reviewing national security concerns.

“At this point, I’m happy with what I have,” Nadella said.

He also expressed support for greater government regulation of cryptocurrency rules, which could stifle ransomware attacks since the ransoms often flow through opaque systems.

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