Therese Poletti’s Tech Tales: Interview: Marc Benioff reminds Wall Street that ‘this isn’t my first recession,’ saying Salesforce’s activists ‘made a lot of money today’

by | Mar 2, 2023 | Stock Market

I wrote Tuesday that Marc Benioff faced the end of a very happy era at Salesforce Inc., with Wall Street ganging up on the software company as layoffs rile employees. Benioff reached out to say it was “quite a headline,” agreeing to an interview Wednesday afternoon. He took the opportunity to remind me that I had been the first reporter to write about Salesforce
when he asked Larry Ellison to leave his board in 2000, and used that fact to make a point — that he has dealt with more than one boom-and-bust cycle over the past 24 years, meaning this is not the first time he has had to “reshape” Salesforce.

“This isn’t my first recession,” Benioff said in our phone interview. “Every year we constantly reshape the company,” he told MarketWatch. “We have gone from zero to $35 billion, we have added a lot, we have lost a lot, we reshaped over 24 years.” (Salesforce is projected to hit $35 billion in fiscal 2024 revenue.) Yesterday’s column: Marc Benioff’s fairy tale is crumbling down and around him Benioff was chatty and seemed in good spirits as his stock spiked toward its best day in more than two years, after a blowout earnings report and a forecast that showed what cost cuts could do for Salesforce’s bottom line. While booming stock prices satisfy Wall Street, my concern was not just for the stock: An evidently deteriorating workplace culture amid massive layoffs and the activist investors swarming into the stock in an unprecedented manner represent serious, twin threats. Benioff brushed off any concern about the activists, saying “they made a lot of money today,” and forcefully argued that Salesforce’s culture is “still very strong.” “It’s a culture of volunteerism and giving, it is still very much alive and well,” Benioff said, noting that Hawaiian-shirt Fridays are still a thing at Salesforce, as is the 1-1-1 model, which dedicates 1% of equity, 1% of product and 1% of employee time to the community. “It is also a performance culture — we a …

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