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Top Executives Leave Salesforce

Business

Bret Taylor, Co-CEO of Salesforce | Image by Benoit Tessier/REUTERS

When three top tech industry executives announced this month they would be leaving Salesforce, the company’s stock dropped 17% within five days.

The most crucial exit is arguably that of Bret Taylor, the Twitter board chairman who rapidly rose to assume the Salesforce co-CEO role while handling Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter.

Taylor, 42, was primed to replace the current and sole-remaining Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff. Instead, Taylor will exit Salesforce at the end of January 2023 to return to “his entrepreneurial roots.”

Benioff stated on a November 30 earnings call that he was still working to find a way to persuade Taylor to stay with the company.

Salesforce subsidiary Tableau’s CEO Mark Nelson announced his resignation last week, too. The slew of resignations has left people on Twitter wondering, “What’s happening at Salesforce?”

Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Salesforce subsidiary Slack, announced his decision to resign just five days after Taylor’s announcement. When questioned as to the reason for his departure, Butterfield stated that it was unrelated to Taylor’s leaving.

These three high-profile exits add to over a dozen the company has seen since October. There has been no concrete indication they are related to the company’s recently forecast growth period, the slowest to date.

“Every loss reminds me of the previous,” Benioff said in an interview on November 30 with CNBC, listing past mentees stretching back decades. “The hardest part is when they tell you they want to leave.”

Jane Edison Stevenson, the chief executive of succession practice at consulting firm Korn Ferry, commented on the departures, stating, “It’s very hard to find someone who wants to run the company and is really good at it, who doesn’t want to have full control.”

Benioff has stated in the past that he did not intend to leave his role as CEO anytime soon. “I’m never leaving Salesforce,” he said. “This is my life’s pursuit.”

Previously, Benioff worked at Oracle, only departing to create Salesforce in 1999. By February 2023, he will be the sole CEO and largest shareholder of the Fortune 150 company.

Investors in the company are wary of Benioff being the sole person in charge. Back in June, a bid by the board came in at 37% in favor of unseating him.

“This turnover [at Salesforce] could imply it’s not going as swimmingly as we thought,” said Mizuho Securities USA Inc. analyst Jordan Klein. “It consolidates more authority and decision-making with Benioff.”

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