Home / Tech / The rise of Marc Benioff, the bombastic Salesforce CEO and owner of Time Magazine, who has a $6.5 billion fortune and owns a 5-acre compound in Hawaii (CRM)

The rise of Marc Benioff, the bombastic Salesforce CEO and owner of Time Magazine, who has a $6.5 billion fortune and owns a 5-acre compound in Hawaii (CRM)

marc benioff segway salesforce 2003

  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has a net worth of $6.5 billion, according to Forbes.
  • Benioff is something of an anomaly among Silicon Valley CEOs — he was actually born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Benioff worked at Oracle for 13 years before leaving the company to work on Salesforce full time.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It seems like Salesforce CEO and founder Marc Benioff never leaves the spotlight.

Between Salesforce’s Dreamforce mega-conference in San Francisco, his philanthropy, and his willingness to take political stands, it seems like he’s always in the spotlight — even if, sometimes, it’s because he’s facing protests over Salesforce’s work with the United States Customs and Border Patrol.

Salesforce itself is in a good position at the moment: Under Benioff’s leadership, the company has swelled to a $121 billion market cap, even as it hit $10 billion in annual revenue for the 2018 fiscal year. It’s gone from an upstart Oracle rival to a cloud computing behemoth in its own right.

Here’s how Benioff, whose estimated net worth now stands at $6.5 billion, worked his way up to the national stage from humble origins.

SEE ALSO: The rise of Larry Ellison, the jet-setting billionaire founder of Oracle

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Marc Russell Benioff, 54, was born in San Francisco on September 25th, 1964, the son of Joelle and Russell Benioff.

Source: Bloomberg

Benioff is something of an anomaly among Silicon Valley CEOs — he was actually born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated from Burlingame High School in 1982.

Source: Bloomberg

His father, Russell Benioff, owned a local department store in San Francisco. “I learned my work ethic from him,” Benioff once said.

Source: Inc.

Benioff got his first job at a jewelry store to save up for his first computer. He was eventually fired for cleaning the floors with the wrong soap.

Source: Entrepreneur

While in high school, Benioff sold his first app — software called “How To Juggle” for the TRS-80 Model 1 computer — to a computer magazine for $75.

Source: Entrepreneur

At age 15, Benioff founded Liberty Software, his one-man company making games for the Atari 800 computer. Titles included “King Arthur’s Heir,” “The Nightmare,” “Escape from Vulcan’s Isle,” and “Crypt of the Undead.”

Source: Entrepreneur

By age 16, Benioff was pulling in $1,500 a month — enough that he was able to pay for his own tuition at the University of Southern California. He graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration in 1986.

Source: Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to billion-dollar company and revolutionized an industry, Salesforce

USC named Benioff an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2014. He now sits on the University’s Board of Trustees.

Source: Salesforce

While at USC, Benioff took a summer internship with Apple, working as a programmer in the Macintosh division under cofounder Steve Jobs. “That summer, I discovered it was possible for an entrepreneur to encourage revolutionary ideas,” Benioff would later write.

Source: Entrepreneur

Jobs became one of Benioff’s mentors. “There would be no Salesforce.com without Steve Jobs,” Benioff said in 2013.

Source: Entrepreneur

Benioff planned to stay in programming for the rest of his career, but a USC professor suggested he might have a mind for business. And so, he took a customer support role at high-flying database company Oracle right out of college.

Source: Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to billion-dollar company and revolutionized an industry

Young Benioff rapidly made it up the ranks. At age 23, Benioff was named Oracle’s “Rookie of the Year.”

Source: Entrepreneur

At 25, Benioff’s salary from Oracle made him a millionaire.

Source: Vanity Fair

By age 26, he was named a vice president — the youngest person to attain the role in the company’s history.

Source: Entrepreneur

While at Oracle, Benioff caught the attention of its billionaire playboy founder Larry Ellison. The two became very close, with Ellison mentoring the younger Benioff.

Source: Inc.

Carlye Adler wrote in Fortune: “They sailed to the Mediterranean on Ellison’s yacht, visited Japan during cherry blossom season, spent Thanksgiving together, and even double-dated.”

Source: Fortune

After 13 years with Oracle, Benioff started itching for something new. With Ellison’s permission, Benioff took a sabbatical to travel the world. He spent part of that time studying meditation in Hawaii.

Source: Entrepreneur

Benioff came up with the idea for Salesforce while swimming with dolphins. He soon started working on the company with a few other Oracle veterans.

Source: Entrepreneur

The big idea behind Salesforce was that where most companies — including Oracle — sold enterprise software that companies had to install on their own servers, they would let people access business apps from the web browser. For the late nineties, this was revolutionary.

Source: Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to billion-dollar company and revolutionized an industry

At first, Ellison was supportive of Benioff. Ellison even gave Salesforce $2 million in funding from his own pocket to get it started, and sat on its board of directors.

Source: Business Insider

But things turned sour between the two. Benioff found out that Oracle was working on a direct competitor to Salesforce. Benioff tried to force his mentor to quit the company’s board. Instead, Ellison forced Benioff to fire him — meaning Ellison kept his shares in Salesforce.

Source: Business Insider

Read more: The epic 30-year bromance of billionaire CEOs Larry Ellison and Marc Benioff

It kicked off an epic rivalry for the ages, with the two taking shots at each other in the press. Note the Salesforce jet shooting down the Oracle biplane in this early Salesforce ad from 2001.

Source: Business Insider

The dot-com bust of the early 2000s was a difficult time for Salesforce. “Suddenly everything around us was falling apart,” Benioff’s cofounder Parker Harris said.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Salesforce survived and kept growing, becoming one of the earliest and biggest companies in the modern cloud computing market.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

And in June 2004, Salesforce held its IPO, raising $110 million at $11 per share.

Source: Bloomberg

In addition to Ellison, real estate magnate Paul Pelosi — the husband of Nancy Pelosi, the US Speaker for the House of Representatives — was an early investor in Salesforce, making them both a lot of money.

Source: Inc.

Beyond just business, Benioff is a best-selling author of the business book “Behind the Cloud,” a 2009 memoir on Salesforce’s early success.

Source: Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to billion-dollar company and revolutionized an industry

Benioff is also a big believer in corporate philanthropy: Under his leadership, Salesforce invented the “1-1-1” model, where the company gives 1% of employee time as volunteer hours, 1% of its profits, and 1% of its resources to charitable causes.

Source: Salesforce

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee declared March 7 “Global 1/1/1 Day” in honor of Salesforce’s 15th birthday in 2014. Benioff keeps a copy of the proclamation in his office.

Source: Forbes

Benioff’s philanthropic efforts focus on children’s health, the environment, public education, and homelessness, according to his biography on Salesforce’s website.

Source: Salesforce

“I hope that our city leaders will wake up & realize that Homelessness is our #1 crisis,” Benioff tweeted in July 2019.

Source: Twitter

Benioff donated $250 million to the University of California, San Francisco in 2010 to found UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

Source: Salesforce

In 2016, Benioff and his wife, Lynne, launched the Benioff Ocean Initiative at the University of California, Santa Barbara to study marine life.

Source: Salesforce

“The business of business is improving the state of the world,” Benioff said.

Source: Salesforce

Benioff also serves on the World Economic Forum’s Board of Trustees.

Source: Salesforce

Benioff credits former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Hindu guru Mata Amritanandamayi — who he met on a trip through India — with encouraging him to put Salesforce’s resources to work helping others.

Source: Inc.

Benioff’s belief in social justice also led him straight into the fight against proposed bills in Indiana and Georgia that would allow discrimination against gay people. He rallied other business leaders to the cause, with a positive result.

All the while, he’s earned a reputation as one of Silicon Valley’s most boisterous CEOs. He rarely appears in public without his custom cloud sneakers.

Source: Business Insider

Benioff is also a Star Wars fan. He keeps an R2-D2 figurine on his desk.

Source: Forbes

And while he may not be the globetrotting playboy that his mentor Ellison is, Benioff has lots of friends in the celebrity and political worlds.

Benioff is married to philanthropist Lynne Benioff.

Source: Salesforce

The pair has two children.

Source: Salesforce

The Benioffs have several homes, including this 5-acre compound in Hawaii.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

He also has fractional ownership of two Gulfstream IV jets.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

All the while, Salesforce has grown to a $120 billion company, while its annual Dreamforce conference has ballooned to take over much of San Francisco every autumn.

Source: Business Insider 1, 2

Dreamforce is also always a huge party, with acts like Metallica and Foo Fighters headlining its after parties.

Source: Business Insider

Salesforce has gotten so big, that at one point, the company had to abandon plans to move into a new San Francisco campus, because it had already outgrown it. Instead, it opened Salesforce Tower, its new headquarters — and the tallest building in San Francisco — in 2018.

Source: Business Insider

Oh, and yes, Marc Benioff is distantly related to David Benioff, of “Game of Thrones” fame.

Source: Business Insider

In August 2018, Salesforce named one-time Oracle exec Keith Block the company’s co-CEO, putting him on an even keel with Benioff.

Source: Business Insider

In 2018, Marc and his wife Lynne Benioff announced that they intend to purchase Time Magazine for $190 million.

Source: Business Insider

In 2018, Salesforce paid Benioff a $1.5 million salary, in addition to a $2.3 million bonus for the fiscal year 2019 and 195,872 stock options.

Source: Business Insider

Benioff thinks he should pay more taxes on that money, however. “Well get an economy that works for everyone when 1) create educational system that works for everyone & 2) Affordable Higher education & 3) strengthen our local K-12 public schools 4) We must focus online reskilling that brings everyone along & 5) higher ind & Crp taxes to pay for it,” Benioff tweeted in June 2019.

Source: Business Insider

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