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LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner says he’s at Microsoft for the long haul, though some in Silicon Valley beg to differ

The media-loving exec has options, ya know!

Jeff Weiner loves media.
Recode

About 16 seconds after Microsoft’s $26 billion deal to buy LinkedIn was announced, even though it was 5 am in Silicon Valley, the incoming about the fate of CEO Jeff Weiner lit up my texts.

"Jeff Weiner is a media guy, not an enterprise guy," wrote someone who knows him well.

"He’s not staying there past 2017," texted another Weiner admirer.

"Weiner is now perfectly positioned to interview for Disney CEO ... perfect timing," wrote still another Internet player.

Naturally, I asked Weiner directly about his commitment to stay at Microsoft and run LinkedIn for the long haul in a joint interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

His reply was pretty definitive: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

That’s always the stock answer, of course, but I think Weiner means it. (Then again, he always said that he wanted LinkedIn to be independent after I kept asking when Microsoft or Google was going to buy it.)

To maximize my irritating queries, I texted Weiner after asking again and noting that some of his tech colleagues did not believe him. And the ever-affable exec replied: "Staying put!"

(Well, okay then, Jeff, even though two exclamation marks would have done more to convince me!! Three even better!!!)

Nonetheless, it’s not an unimportant question to ask, since the leaders of many of Microsoft’s big acquisitions have left the company — some the victim of corporate restructuring, some the result of too much money thrown at them and others because it’s not as fun inside a giant and slow-moving org as it is at a startup. In fact, when talk turns to "integration" and "synergy," many execs get queasy.

Weiner did not seem that way on the investor call with Nadella, who used those two words a lot. Instead, Weiner opted to repeat the word "independence" quite a few times about LinkedIn to make sure that message was delivered.

And sources familiar with the situation said Weiner is indeed committed to stay at least several years at Microsoft, most especially since he and Nadella have formed a solid personal bond in the talks. In the interview, Weiner noted that.

"I have a lot of admiration of [Nadella], and it’s pretty amazing to see the changes since he took over," said Weiner. "I admire at how agile, innovative and purpose-driven the company has become."

Purpose-driven is a buzzword that Nadella also loves to use. It’s in stark contrast to former CEO Steve Ballmer, a more obstreperous exec who did not seem to have as much success at holding onto the top leaders from big acquisitions made during his tenure.

Yammer CEO David Sacks left Microsoft two years after it paid $1.2 billion for the workplace chat service in 2012. Skype CEO Tony Bates got his own Skype division when Microsoft forked over $8.5 billion for the online communications service in 2011, but left after Nadella got the CEO nod in early 2014. Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop left in 2015, also due to Nadella’s new reign, two years after the phone maker was bought for $9 billion. And if you want to go back a little further, aQuantive CEO Brian McAndrews arrived in 2007 after the $6 billion purchase, but left only a year later.

Many are now looking at how Nadella handles these first significant acquisitions purely under his watch — the other being the $2.5 billion purchase of Minecraft owner Mogang in late 2014. In that deal, the founders all left at the start, but Microsoft seems to have kept the promise of hands-off management.

That’s been a good thing, with Microsoft just announcing that sales of the popular building game had doubled to 100 million since it was bought. (Note to Nadella: Keep at it, as my kid Alex still loves Minecraft, despite tiring of most other games over the years.).

Keeping LinkedIn happy will mean keeping Weiner happy, including not trashing the still unprofitable media forays that he clearly loves over revenue or integration issues. Within the company, despite assurances from Weiner, some are worried what this acquisition means for LinkedIn’s ambitious media efforts under his tenure.

"It’s not clear where we fit if the product really did integrate more substantively," said one person at LinkedIn. "We write about work, but we’re not exactly enterprise."

Not exactly, indeed.

Speaking of media, Weiner has many other options, of course, including having his name floated as one of the many possible replacements for Disney CEO Bob Iger.

When it was added to the list after the April departure of Tom Staggs, who many had thought was the heir apparent at Disney, I pinged Weiner and he texted me back: "I already have a job."

And, according to him, he still does.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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