Microsoft was criticized three years ago when it sunk $240 million into Facebook, valuing the upstart social networking company at a whopping $15 billion. But that bet may be one of Steve Ballmer’s smartest moves, especially after news leaked today that financial services giant T. Rowe Price had invested an additional $190 million into the company.

Early reports have not signaled whether a new valuation was affixed to Facebook as part of the investment. But, even so, Facebook’s value has skyrocketed since Steve Ballmer and crew placed the bet on Facebook. Reports earlier this year indicated that Facebook was valued at more than $50 billion, nearly quadruple the valuation from the time of Microsoft’s 2007 investment. (UPDATE: Last month, which is when T. Rowe Price invested, The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook was valued at between $60 billion and $70 billion).

Most venture capitalists would be pretty proud of that accomplishment.

What will be interesting to watch is whether the connections between Facebook and Microsoft strengthen in the coming months and years. Or, whether Microsoft at some point decides to cash out its small 1.6 percent stake.

In addition to Facebook, T. Rowe Price also invested in Zynga and Angie’s List, signaling that the secondary market for fast-growing Internet companies remains red hot.

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  • Guest

    Congratulations to Steve on a successful investment! Microsoft has picked a winner in the social networking space, rather than trying to ham-fistedly imitate Facebook as Google and News Corp have done.

  • TrevorFSmith

    How does yet another round of investment validate early investors? Wouldn’t smart money be on companies which require fewer rounds to reach profitability or exit?

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