(Bloomberg) -- Salesforce.com Inc. was a rival potential bidder for LinkedIn Corp. in the process leading up to the professional networking website’s acquisition by Microsoft Corp., according to people familiar with the matter.

Salesforce was advised by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in the negotiations, said the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak on the matter. Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, on Monday unveiled plans to buy LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in cash -- the biggest deal in its history.

While Microsoft has maintained an interest in LinkedIn for several years, the software giant didn’t initiate the conversations that led to the current deal, said people familiar with the process. Rather LinkedIn Executive Chairman Reid Hoffman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Weiner reached out to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to let him know that they were proceeding with a sale process that had led them to hire bankers and contact other potential buyers, the people said.

Salesforce, which competes with Microsoft in providing cloud-based software and services to businesses, could have used LinkedIn’s vast trove of data on workers around the world to bolster tools that help customers close sales deals.

LinkedIn profiles are packed with information on everything from users’ skills and responsibilities at past jobs to methods for contacting them. Nicole Leverich, a spokeswoman for Mountain View, California-based LinkedIn, declined to comment but said more details on the sale process would come in a proxy statement soon. Peter Wootton, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to comment, as did San Francisco-based Salesforce.

Earlier this month, Salesforce agreed to acquire e-commerce cloud software maker Demandware Inc. for $2.8 billion. At the time, Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff said this M&A season “is the most intense, most exciting I’ve ever seen.”

“We’re not winning every deal,” he said on CNBC in early June. “This is just a deal that we were actually able to get done.”

Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Goldman Sachs, which has previously advised Microsoft on big deals, couldn’t work with the Redmond, Washington-based software maker on the LinkedIn deal because it already had a role with another bidder. Morgan Stanley was sole adviser to Microsoft on the deal.

Following Bloomberg’s initial report Thursday, Benioff confirmed to technology blog Recode that Salesforce had looked at acquiring LinkedIn.

Last year, Microsoft evaluated a possible bid for Salesforce, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg at the time.

--With assistance from Brian Womack

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