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LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman is likely to get a Microsoft board seat

The longtime tech investor and entrepreneur is an insider’s insider in Silicon Valley.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner with executive chairman Reid Hoffman in the Code red chairs
Asa Mathat

LinkedIn co-founder and Executive Chairman Reid Hoffman is likely to be named to the board of Microsoft once the $26 billion acquisition deal closes later this year as expected, according to several sources.

No official offer has been made to Hoffman as yet, due to fiduciary issues, and the many-step process has not been set in motion either.

But, if it moves forward as many expect, Hoffman would be voted on as a director at the end of the year, which is when the annual meeting of the Redmond, Wash., tech giant typically takes place.

The addition of the high-profile and well-liked investor and entrepreneur would be a coup for Microsoft, which has had an up-and-down relationship with Silicon Valley over the decades. But under CEO Satya Nadella, who replaced the pugnacious Steve Ballmer in 2014, relations have markedly improved.

Microsoft has had a number of Silicon Valley directors. Former Symantec CEO John Thompson currently serves as chairman; it also added former Cisco exec Padmasree Warrior, who is now working at electric vehicle company NextEV, to the board in late 2015. And Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had served on the board for five years, before stepping down in 2012, reportedly in part due to tensions with Ballmer.

Hoffman is one of tech’s top players and investors, having been involved with many of its most iconic companies, including holding top jobs at PayPal and LinkedIn. He also invested in Facebook’s first financing round, along with investor Peter Thiel (whom Hoffman introduced to CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg), along with many other startups like Airbnb, where he serves as a board observer.

Not all Hoffman’s bets have been as successful — he was an investor and board member in Zynga, for example.

Hoffman is also a partner at Greylock Partners and the co-author of management books with tech-tastic titles like “The Start-Up of You" and “The Alliance.” Most of all, the self-effacing Hoffman is an insider’s insider, and has garnered the only-in-Silicon-Valley nickname of “The Startup Whisperer.”

It’s a good moniker for him since he was a key behind-the-scenes figure in this deal, which several sources said had its seeds planted many years ago in discussions between Hoffman and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Hoffman was also an active participant in the current discussions, along with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and it was finally shoved over the finish line last Sunday at his home in Silicon Valley.

One issue that might be problematic: Hoffman is currently a board member of Mozilla Corporation, the maker of the Firefox browser, which competes with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Microsoft and LinkedIn declined to comment on any plans to add Hoffman to the board.

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