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Microsoft has just dropped a massive surprise with the news that the company is acquiring LinkedIn in one of the biggest tech deals of all-time. Redmond has said the deal was a possibility for some time and that LinkedIn will continue to operate as its own business under the stewardship of current chairman and founder, Reid Hoffman.

Microsoft shares were halted as the company prepared the news, while LinkedIn shares soared with the news, hiking 50%. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expressed his companies admiration for the network and that LinkedIn represents a long-term goal for the company.

We´ve always had a great admiration for Linkedin and what Reid and Jeff and the team here have built. I mean, I´m a user of Linkedin. I´m a publisher on Linkedin, and as I´ve thought about it more in terms of what is it that is most needed in today´s world – for sure I´m a deep believer in productivity tools and communication tools, because that´s what empowers people to be able to be great at their job. But think about taking that, and connecting it with the professional network, and really having the entirety of what is your professional life, being enhanced, more empowered – where you are acquiring new skills and being more successful in your current job, and finding a greater/bigger next job – that´s that vision.

And I´ve been talking with Reid and Jeff for a while and the fact that it came together now is fantastic, but believe me – I´ve been thinking about this for a long time.

In an open letter to all Microsoft employees, Nadella added that “LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand and independence, as well as their culture which is very much aligned with ours.” He also stated that “Jeff will continue to be CEO of LinkedIn, he’ll report to me and join our senior leadership team. In essence, what I’ve asked Jeff to do is manage LinkedIn with key performance metrics that accrue to our overall success.”

LinkedIn founder and chairman of the board Reid Hoffman said:

“Today is a re-founding moment for LinkedIn. I see incredible opportunity for our members and customers and look forward to supporting this new and combined business. I fully support this transaction and the Board’s decision to pursue it, and will vote my shares in accordance with their recommendation on it.”

While Microsoft will take ownership of LinkedIn, the company has said the social network will cotninue to operate as its own business.

This is Microsoft’s biggest acquisition since the company purchased the Nokia devices and services division three years ago. However, in perspective Redmond will pay $20 billion more to take control of LinkedIn, or $196 per share, which is 50% higher than LinkedIn’s closing price on Friday. This is what Nadella said in a memo circulated to Microsoft staff:

In a memo to staff, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella said:

This deal brings together the world’s leading professional cloud with the world’s leading professional network. I have been learning about LinkedIn for some time while also reflecting on how networks can truly differentiate cloud services. It’s clear to me that the LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business and an impressive network of more than 433 million professionals.

LinkedIn is the largest professional network in the world, and the company’s growth spurred Microsoft into action. In a joint press release sent out today, the company pointed out some key stats that made the difference when deciding to acquire the network:

19 percent growth year over year (YOY) to more than 433 million members worldwide
9 percent growth YOY to more than 105 million unique visiting members per month
49 percent growth YOY to 60 percent mobile usage
34 percent growth YOY to more than 45 billion quarterly member page views
101 percent growth YOY to more than 7 million active job listings