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Salesforce ends CEO job share – again. Marc Benioff back as sole boss

Bret Taylor returns to entrepreneurial roots after losing his gig as chair of Twitter

Salesforce has again unwound its CEO job share arrangement, with co-CEO Bret Taylor announcing he will leave the company in January 2023 – leaving Marc Benioff occupying the one remaining big chair.

The SaaS giant has tried sharing the CEO's job before: from 2018 to 2020 Keith Block shared the gig with Benioff. But that arrangement ended when Block departed without an explanation but with thanks and warm hugs, because he stayed on as an advisor.

Taylor at least explained why he.s leaving. "After a lot of reflection, I've decided to return to my entrepreneurial roots" he said, in a canned statement.

Opportunities to exercise his entrepreneurial muscles have been hard to come by for Taylor in 2022. He was chair of Twitter's board so had plenty of drama to deal with during Elon Musk’s on-again, off-again, on-again bid for the microblogging service. Taylor steered the deal to completion and was then fired for his troubles.

On Salesforce's Q3 2023 earnings call on Thursday, Benioff was asked if Salesforce intends to appoint another co-CEO. He didn't answer the question, but expressed confidence in the quality of Salesforce's senior management team.

"We're still in a little bit of shock and extremely sad and feeling of our loss for losing Bret," he added.

Benioff also marked Taylor's departure on Twitter by sharing data on Salesforce's revenue trajectory. A near-identical tweet was Taylor's first public act as co-CEO.

Salesforce's earnings call featured typically robust numbers.

Revenue of $7.84 billion was up 14 percent year on year, and produced net income of $210 million – a drop from $468 million in 2021's corresponding quarter. Exchange rate issues slugged the company to the tune of $300 million in the quarter.

Benioff said Salesforce achieved margins of 22.7 percent, but aims to hit 25 percent or above by FY 2026. Customers are apparently happy with this: execs said Salesforce's wares have proven they save money for users, and Salesforce is confident it can pull it off given it increased margin during the economic down years of 2008 and 2009.

The soon-to-be-sole CEO also said Salesforce staff now attend the office 50 percent of the time, but noted that just as factory workers kept going to work during the pandemic, the SaaS company now has workers who really need to be on site each day to do their jobs.

But he also feels that the world of work has changed.

"I do think that we're going to have a rebalancing," Benioff said. "I think even at Salesforce, we have what I would call factory jobs – folks that are required to be here, whether they are doing maybe very core work or even new folks who don't have maybe the tribal knowledge yet or need the mentorship or folks coming in from college who benefit from being in the office."

"But we're never going back to how it was. We all know that." ®

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