Microsoft said on Monday that it was acquiring LinkedIn in a $26.2 billion cash deal, as the company seeks new sources of growth on the internet.
The acquisition, by far the largest in Microsoft’s history, unites two companies in different businesses: one a big maker of software tools, the other the largest business-oriented social networking site with more than 400 million members globally. Both, though, make most of their money by catering to professionals.
Executives involved in the deal said that the common thread prompted the acquisition.
“This deal is all about bringing together the professional cloud and professional network,” Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a telephone interview.
Microsoft has bought its way into new businesses before, though most of its largest deals have not turned out well. It paid nearly $9 billion for the smartphone operations of Nokia and more than $6 billion for aQuantive, an internet advertising company, but ended up writing off most of the value of those deals after they performed poorly.
Mr. Nadella, who took over as chief executive in February 2014, was not involved in those deals. Since assuming leadership of the company, he has made mostly smaller acquisitions, with the exception of the $2.5 billion deal to acquire the maker of the game Minecraft.
Mr. Nadella said that when Microsoft had pursued deals that were closer to Microsoft’s core products — including the $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype — the deals have worked out.
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“Every time we’ve gotten it right, we’ve had success in those dimensions,” Mr. Nadella said.
Mr. Nadella has in some ways improved Microsoft’s fortunes by accelerating the company’s shift from traditional software to cloud applications and services. Its stock has risen significantly under his leadership.
Yet big challenges remain for the company in today’s technology landscape, where new powerhouses like Amazon.com, the leader in cloud computing, have a significant head start.
LinkedIn could help Microsoft accelerate its shift to the internet by giving it a large online property that has became the de facto standard for posting résumés online. The site is heavily used by recruiters for finding new workers. Microsoft is one of LinkedIn’s biggest customers.
“The mission statements of LinkedIn and Microsoft have different words, but are essentially same,” Jeff Weiner, the chief executive of LinkedIn, said in an interview. “We’ve come at it from different perspectives. LinkedIn built a professional network. Microsoft built a professional cloud.”
The companies said that Microsoft had agreed to pay $196 a share to buy LinkedIn, a business social networking site that has more than 400 million members globally.
The companies said Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn and its controlling shareholder, had approved the deal, as did Mr. Weiner. Mr. Weiner will remain chief executive of LinkedIn, which will operate as an independent brand, the companies said.
LinkedIn shares had fallen by almost half since a peak of nearly $260 a share last fall and ended trading on Friday at $131.08.