- From a managers meeting in Hawaii on Tuesday evening, Salesforce announced the promotion of its chief operating officer, Keith Block, to co-CEO, alongside the founder and CEO Marc Benioff.
- Block, who joined the company in 2013, will continue to focus on operations and strategy while Benioff focuses on “vision and innovation.”
- Before joining Salesforce, Block had a lengthy and storied career at Oracle.
- Read on for more of what you need to know about Salesforce’s new co-CEO.
The Salesforce cofounder Marc Benioff has led the company as CEO since its founding in 1999. But now the $106 billion software company has a new leader to help achieve its goal of $23 billion in annual revenue by 2022.
The company’s president and chief operating officer, Keith Block, was promoted to co-CEO. He’ll continue to focus on Salesforce’s strategic growth and operations, while Benioff executes on what the company describes as “vision and innovation.”
Salesforce first announced Block’s promotion late Tuesday from a management meeting in Hawaii, a state whose native culture is imbued throughout the customer-relationship-software company’s ethos.
While the title is new, Block has managed the day-to-day operations at Salesforce since his promotion to COO in 2016. For the past two years, it has been Block’s job to grow the company’s global sales and marketing units, even as he’s tasked with keeping the company’s 32,000 employees moving in the same direction. He has been president, vice chairman, and director of the company since 2013.
In addition to the title change, Block will get a raise. His base salary will increase to $1.435 million from $1.15 million, according to a company filing. His annual target bonus will also increase to 200% of his base salary from 100%, which means if he does a good job, Block will take home $4.305 million next year. And that’s not including the equity in the company he already owns.
Wall Street applauded the move, with analysts calling it “well deserved” and a “positive development for shareholders” as well as a good sign for Salesforce’s coming second-quarter 2019 earnings.
Here’s everything else you need to know about San Francisco’s newest CEO.
Both Benioff and Block have a history at Oracle
The story of Salesforce is deeply linked to Oracle, its longtime rival and inspiration for the “No Software” mentality that fueled Salesforce’s rise as a cloud platform. In fact, Benioff and Block met each other back in the ’80s, when the two worked for Oracle.
“This announcement really reflects how Salesforce is run today, which is that Keith and I over the last five years have developed a very strong partnership,” Benioff told Fortune. “Of course, we knew each other for quite a bit before that — we both started at Oracle in 1986 — so we have known each other forever. And we’ve really grown to be great partners. We wanted to cement that, so we’ve exchanged our vows and now we’re co-CEOs.”
Benioff himself joined Oracle out of college, and by age 26 he was a vice president with a $300,000 salary to boot. The Oracle founder Larry Ellison was a mentor to Benioff, so much so that they reportedly spent Thanksgiving together and double-dated. But in 1999, after 13 years at Oracle, Benioff left to start Salesforce.
Block lasted twice as long at the storied database giant. When he joined Salesforce in 2013, he had spent 26 years rising up the ranks at Oracle. By the time he left, he had been Oracle’s executive vice president of North America for nearly a decade, making him a key player at the company.
Oracle, which has a market cap of $190 billion, sells databases and the licenses software that helps companies manage their data. But it’s best known for the efficacy and performance of its sales teams.
It’s that all-star sales mentality that Block brought to Salesforce. Analysts credit Block with Salesforce’s move from serving primarily small customers to winning business with the largest of enterprises. The company continues to sign big deals at a record pace and now has roughly 150,000 customers with contracts worth at least $13.3 billion.
It’s also noteworthy that while few companies have multiple CEOs, Oracle similarly splits the CEO position between two executives with different strengths: the strategy-focused Mark Hurd and the financially rooted Safra Catz.
He famously left Oracle after criticizing Mark Hurd
Despite his long tenure, Block actually left Oracle in 2012 under something of a dark cloud after the publicizing of some unflattering instant-message conversations, in which he criticized Hurd, then the second-in-command at Oracle.
In the messages, which came out in the discovery process of a legal battle between Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, Block shared his strong disapproval of Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems, saying: “We bought a dog. Mark wants us to sell the dog. … Nobody wants to sell Sun. … It baaaallllloooooooows.”
It wasn’t long after that Hurd left Oracle.
Block has deep roots in Boston
While Salesforce is the biggest tech company with its headquarters in San Francisco, Block maintains deep roots in the Northeast.
The Carnegie Mellon alumnus and self-declared Boston sports fan is officially based in San Francisco. But in the past, he could be found hanging around the Boston office, and he’s credited with building Salesforce’s presence in the region.
“Ultimately, we’d like this to be one of the biggest offices that we have in the country, and one of Boston’s biggest employers,” Block told The Boston Globe in May 2017.
— Keith Block (@KeithBlock) February 4, 2018
As of August 2017, the company had about 1,000 employees in Boston, including the team formerly known as Demandware, which Salesforce acquired in 2016 for $2.8 billion and turned into its Commerce Cloud.
Block’s wife, Suzanne Kelley, is also a longtime resident of Boston, where she is a vice president at Oracle, leading operations and project management for the global business unit.
In February, the couple donated $15 million to establish the Block Center for Technology and Society, a research and policy institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Block is also involved in philanthropy with the Boston public-school system through the nonprofit Boston Partners in Education.