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Salesforce Promotes Bret Taylor as Co-CEO With Marc Benioff

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(Bloomberg) -- Salesforce.com Inc. named Chief Operating Officer Bret Taylor as co-chief executive officer with co-founder and Chairman Marc Benioff, formalizing a structure that had been taking shape over the past year.

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Benioff will continue as board chairman of Salesforce, which is the top maker of cloud customer-relations software and one of the world’s 35 biggest companies by market value. Taylor was also named vice chair just a day after he was appointed Twitter Inc.’s independent board chairman.

“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 Tuesday in a statement. “He has been my trusted friend for years, and I couldn’t be happier to welcome him as co-CEO.”

Taylor, 41, had been seen as the most likely successor to Benioff since co-CEO Keith Block left the company in February 2020. Taylor had been promoted to president and COO in December 2019 and in light of Block’s departure took on more of the company’s day-to-day operations. For example, the head of the Tableau division, Mark Nelson, reports to Taylor. Adam Selipsky, who led that unit before leaving to run Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud unit, had reported to Benioff. Under the previous co-CEO system, Benioff had focused on strategic planning and had more time for his political and philanthropic initiatives.

“It has been well telegraphed and planned,” said Pat Walravens, an analyst at JMP Securities. “No. 2, it is Marc Benioff’s company and I wouldn’t expect him to fade away anytime soon. That’s important because he’s had really good product instincts for almost 20 years now.”

Taylor is a veteran tech executive. He co-created Google Maps in 2005 and later served as Facebook Inc.’s chief technology officer for three years, leaving in 2012 to co-found Quip, a productivity software company. Salesforce bought Quip in 2016. Taylor has been a board member at Twitter since 2016.

Benioff credited Taylor with doing the ground work on the $27.7 billion deal to acquire Slack Technologies Inc., including discussions with Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, and pitching him on the merits of what became Salesforce’s largest acquisition.

“What’s very exciting is this vision that Stewart and Bret have put together,” Benioff said in a conference call last December announcing the deal. “It’s a wow.”

Taylor, who has a deep engineering background, is more soft-spoken and viewed as a counterbalance to Benioff’s bold personality. He’s credited as the mastermind behind Salesforce’s biggest product developments of the past few years. Outside of the Slack merger, he played a central role in crafting the company’s “Customer 360” strategy, one that aimed to unify different Salesforce products to give enterprises a more complete view of individual customers. He was also key in the development of Hyperforce, which lets users run Salesforce programs on the top public clouds.

More broadly, Taylor’s rise to co-CEO, along with the board additions of former United Airlines Holdings Inc. CEO Oscar Munoz and Williams-Sonoma Inc. CEO Laura Alber, “solidifies the star-studded management team” at Salesforce and removes lingering questions over Benioff’s future at the company, said Alex Zukin, an analyst at Wolfe Research.

“It’s a big deal,” Zukin said.

Taylor’s annual salary will rise to $1.4 million from $1 million with an annual target bonus of 200% of his base salary determined by company and individual performance objectives, according to a regulatory filing. The company also intends to grant him $3 million of performance stock units and options to purchase $2 million in shares, subject to approval by the board’s compensation committee, Salesforce said in the filing.

Separately, Salesforce gave revenue and profit forecasts for the current period that fell short of estimates, sending shares down about 6% in extended trading.

(Updates with comments from analysts, details on compensation beginning in the fifth paragraph.)

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