Meet Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, the ‘statesman’ who’s spent 2 decades quietly reinventing the $1.6 trillion firm’s relationship with Washington, DC, and other Big Tech titans (MSFT)

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Last month, the CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple answered tough questions about their business practices from a US congressional antitrust committee, live for the public to see.

One of the most valuable tech companies in the world, however, was notable by its absence: $1.6 trillion Microsoft.

But while Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wasn’t in the hot seat during that hearing, the company still had an impact on the proceedings. Weeks before, a top Microsoft executive came to consult with members of the committee in a conversation the company says was meant to share its experiences as the target of antitrust scrutiny in the not-so-distant past.

That executive was Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith. And the specific request for his expertise shows his influence in Washington, DC, at a time when the company is navigating some tricky political waters.

Not only is Microsoft bidding to acquire TikTok ahead of the Trump administration’s deadline for a deal, but it just last week scored a major victory as the Pentagon on Friday reaffirmed its decision to award the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract to Microsoft — despite arguments by Amazon Web Services that it lost the deal because of political interference.

Microsoft declined to make Smith available for an interview, but several people in his orbit say his strength lies in his ability to empathize and collaborate with the company’s opponents and even, in some cases, in his ability to hire them. 

While Microsoft has taken strong public stands, particularly on immigration issues including President Donald Trump’s travel ban on several majority-Muslim countries and more recent suspension of visas for foreign workers, Smith has maintained good relationships with the White House and both sides of the congressional aisle by making sure he, and by extension Microsoft, never gets pigeonholed as partisan. 

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Where many technology companies are viewed on Capitol Hill as overtly liberal, Microsoft is never seen as being “stuck in a bubble,” said Barry Jackson, a former chief of staff to then-House Speaker John Boehner who also advised President George W. Bush.

That reputation has helped Microsoft stay out of Trump’s crosshairs, even as the administration takes aim at other tech giants such as Amazon. Now, Smith’s influence will be crucial as Microsoft navigates a bid to acquire a portion of the viral-video app TikTok from its Chinese owner under pressure from Trump for a sale.

Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice-presidential nominee who is a longtime friend of Smith’s, told Business Insider the key was that when it comes to reaching an agreement, Smith will set politics aside and seek the common ground. He described Smith’s negotiating style as, “Can we get to yes?”

“Some people negotiate and they say they want to feel like they’ve beaten you in a negotiation,” Kaine said. “That’s not the way Brad is. Brad would be trying to figure out that sweet spot where participants were able to achieve if, not all of their mission, you know, much of their mission.”

Smith’s focus on ‘peace’ played a …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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