Ballmers Three Amigos

Meet the trio leading Microsoft's $1.1 billion stampede into small-business software.

Many high-tech takeovers are negotiated in board rooms or exclusive hotel suites. But Microsoft was willing to make an exception when it came time to corral its most recent acquisition, Great Plains Software.

The $1.1 billion stock deal, which is expected to close this spring, was nearly a year in the making. Informal talks between the two companies began on the banks of the Missouri River last summer. At the time, several Microsoft executives trotted out to Fargo, N.D., to join Great Plains top brass for a horseback riding excursion. The galloping discussions included Microsoft partner VP Ian Rogoff, Great Plains CEO Doug Burgum, COO Jodi Uecker-Rust and CFO Tami Reller, among a dozen other top executives.

Both sides saw real business synergies before they even left the stable. "We werent looking to be sold," says Uecker-Rust. "But the strategic fit was pretty obvious from the get-go. We had a shared vision in the small and midsize business space."