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Salesforce promotes Bret Taylor to co-CEO alongside Benioff

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Bret Taylor

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Salesforce on Tuesday promoted Bret Taylor to the role of co-CEO, alongside Marc Benioff, who co-founded the company in 1999.

Taylor, 41, joined Salesforce in 2016, through the $412 million acquisition of his productivity software start-up Quip, which he co-founded four years earlier. Taylor quickly moved up the ranks to become president and chief product officer, and he now participates in quarterly earnings calls with analysts.

“Bret is a phenomenal industry leader who has been instrumental in creating incredible success for our customers and driving innovation throughout our company,” Benioff said, in a press release announcing the promotion. “Together, Bret and I will lead Salesforce through our next chapter, while living our shared values of trust, customer success, innovation and equality for all.”

Before starting Quip, Taylor helped create Google Maps, sold social networking start-up FriendFeed to Facebook, and spent three years as Facebook’s technology chief. Taylor sits on Twitter’s board of directors, and on Monday was named chairman as part of Jack Dorsey’s departure as CEO.

Taylor made $13.9 million in total compensation for the 2021 fiscal year, mostly from stock awards, according to Salesforce’s most recent proxy statement. He owns about $329 million worth of Salesforce shares, according to FactSet. Taylor received Salesforce stock in exchange for his Quip holdings.

As part of his promotion, Taylor’s annual salary was increased to $1.4 million from $1 million, and his annual target bonus jumped to 200% of his base salary from 150%, Salesforce said in a filing. The company also said it intends to grand Taylor $3 million worth of performance stock units and options to purchase $2 million of Salesforce shares at the closing price on the grant date.

The last time Benioff named another CEO of Salesforce came in 2018, when former Oracle executive Keith Block became co-CEO alongside Benioff. But Block stepped down less than two years later, and Benioff removed the “co” from his title.

Marc Benioff, chairman and co-chief executive officer of Salesforce.com Inc., speaks during the opening keynote of the 2019 DreamForce conference in San Francisco on Nov. 19, 2019. Salesforce.com Inc.s annual software conference, where it introduces new products and discusses its commitment to social causes, was interrupted for the second year in a row by protests against the company’s work with the U.S. government.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Taylor told people he was expecting to get the CEO job soon, the Information reported on Oct. 7.

“Marc has been my mentor, my greatest supporter and my trusted friend for years,” he said in Tuesday’s statement. “Partnering with him to lead the company he co-founded 22 years ago is an enormous privilege.”

Salesforce is the largest employer in San Francisco, drawing tens of thousands of attendees each year to its Dreamforce conference, where Benioff expounds on business trends. Benioff regularly engages in politics, directs money to philanthropic causes and, with his wife, Lynne, acquired ownership of Time Magazine from Meredith Corp in 2018.

Salesforce has expanded beyond its core of providing cloud-based software for sales reps, with products for customer service, marketing and commerce. Acquisitions of MuleSoft, Tableau and most recently Slack have also helped Salesforce grow. One of Taylor’s first high-profile conference calls with Salesforce came after the announced $6.5 billion purchase of MuleSoft in 2018.

Last year, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield told Taylor that his company was interested in acquiring Quip from Salesforce. Taylor told Butterfield that wasn’t happening, but he later brought up the idea of Salesforce buying Slack, according to a regulatory filing. The $27.1 billion deal closed in July.

Taylor studied computer science at Stanford, where he obtained bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Benioff graduated from the University of Southern California, a fellow Pac-12 Conference member and heated rival in football.

Taylor tweeted about the significance of the upcoming matchup in 2018.

“I am a simple man,” Taylor, a Stanford alum, posted on Sept. 7, the day before Stanford and USC squared off. “I just need my family, my health… and for Stanford to beat USC tomorrow so I can remind @Benioff about it for the next 12 months.”

Benioff retweeted the post. And despite Stanford’s 14-point victory, the two men remained close. Taylor was already in the C-Suite, and he would soon join Benioff and a select few top executives in rehearsals for the Dreamforce keynote.

“We develop this together and the narrative is shared so it’s actually fairly natural to go up and give the speech,” Taylor told CNBC in a 2018 interview, discussing their preparation for the event. “It’s really interesting because it changes pretty materially from the beginning.”

At the time, Taylor’s name was already being floated as a possible successor to Benioff, who’s now 57, has a net worth of close to $11 billion and spends a healthy amount of his time at his estate in Hawaii. Taylor wasn’t much interested in the topic.

“I don’t even know what my reaction is to that,” he said, when asked to address rumors of his potential future promotion. “I’m very focused on the problems ahead of me right now.”

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