How Microsoft did become Washington’s favorite tech giant


President Brad Smith has played a fundamental role with regulators. Rivals say he also directs negative attention toward them. Microsoft’s Activision deal, under FTC review, will evaluate the strategy

When a congressional committee was preparing to publicly interrogate the CEOs of four tech giants in 2020, Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith, whose employer wasn’t on the hot seat, gave the lawmakers a private briefing. When Australia proposed a law to force Facebook and Google to pay for news articles, Mr. Smith endorsed it and offered Microsoft’s Bing as an alternative. When the U.S. considered similar legislation, he went to Washington to testify in front of Congress to show his support.

Mr. Smith, a Microsoft veteran of almost 30 years and president for seven, has maneuvered his company to an enviable position in a regulatory environment that is highly hostile toward tech titans. Microsoft is now widely seen by regulators as the friendly party among today’s top tech companies, a status government officials and Microsoft insiders say flows largely from Mr. Smith’s cultivation of friends in Washington.