Salesforce's chief operating officer Bret Taylor just got promoted to become Marc Benioff's co-CEO

Salesforce's chief operating officer Bret Taylor just got promoted to become Marc Benioff's co-CEO
  • Bret Taylor has been appointed co-CEO of Salesforce and vice chair of its board.
  • He will serve as co-CEO alongside Marc Benioff, who will continue as Salesforce's chairman.

Salesforce's Bret Taylor has been appointed co-CEO and Vice Chair of the board, the company announced on Tuesday. He'll serve as co-CEO alongside Marc Benioff, who will remain in the chairman role.

The news came on Tuesday alongside Salesforce's quarterly earnings report. Salesforce shares are down over 5% in after-hours trading at the time of publication. Salesforce beat Wall Street's revenue and earnings estimates, but its earnings guidance for the next quarter was lower than expected.

This is actually Salesforce's second run at the concept of having two chief executives: Keith Block served as co-CEO from mid-2018 until early 2020 before leaving in February 2020. After his departure, Benioff had signaled that another co-CEO wasn't in his immediate plans, fanning the flames on the long-running rumor that he planned to step down and appoint a replacement. Today's news shows that he's apparently willing to try that approach again.

Also, in an interview on CNBC's Mad Money Tuesday, Benioff told Jim Cramer in no uncertain terms that he's "never leaving," which may quiet some of that speculation.

Taylor, known in the industry for his key roles as an early product leader at both Google and Facebook, has established himself as the most visible executive at Salesforce besides Benioff himself, and had long been considered to be the top executive's eventual successor. He was named chief product officer of Salesforce in 2017, and became its chief operating officer in 2019.


Earlier this week, Taylor was named the chairman of Twitter's board of directors, on which he has served on since 2016. That announcement came as Twitter CEO and cofounder Jack Dorsey announced his plans to leave the company.

Taylor is a product-focused executive, bringing a different skillset to the C-suite than Benioff or former co-CEO Block, who had a background in sales. Prior to Salesforce, Taylor helped found Google Maps and was later Facebook's chief technology officer, where he gets credit for creating its "Like" button and helping lead the social network through its IPO in 2012.

Taylor quickly rose through the ranks after Salesforce acquired his collaboration startup Quip for $750 million in 2016. The following year, Taylor was promoted to Salesforce's C-suite as its chief product officer. In 2019, Taylor was named the president and chief operating officer of the cloud giant, responsible for global product vision, engineering, security, marketing, and communications.

In a somewhat unusual arrangement, several of Taylor's fellow C-level execs reported directly to him, rather than Benioff: David Schmaier, who succeeded Taylor as chief product officer, Tableau CEO Mark Nelson, chief marketing officer Sarah Franklin, and chief engineering officer Srinivas Tallapragada were all under Taylor on the official org chart.

That structure was just one of many recent signs that Taylor was poised to ascend to the CEO spot. Taylor famously spearheaded the firm's $27.7 billion deal to buy workplace chat app Slack, which closed in July — a move that cemented his position as Benioff's most powerful lieutenant.


Indeed, as Insider reported last year, while Benioff has been very involved with significant Salesforce acquisitions like MuleSoft and Tableau, the CEO took a back-seat and let Taylor drive the day-to-day process of the Slack deal. Taylor has also joined Benioff in speaking at the company's various conferences around the world, recently including an event in February broadcasted live from Singapore.

Additionally, recently, Taylor has often been the one to communicate complicated topics with Salesforce's employees, Insider previously reported. For example, in the aftermath of the January 6th riots at the US Capitol, Taylor was the executive who sent the companywide email communicating with employees as the events unfolded, according to a memo viewed by Insider.

He's also the one who later disclosed at an all-hands meeting that Salesforce was reviewing its roster of customers to make sure its technology was not being used to incite violence.

Employees previously told Insider that the decision to make Taylor the internal face of the company on those matters is a sign that the company has spent much of the past few years preparing him to one day take over for Benioff.

In his new role as co-CEO, Taylor will be responsible for overseeing the company's vision of a so-called "360-degree" platform that can give its clients a complete view of their customers, from managing marketing campaigns and the sales funnel all the way through to tracking purchases and customer service requests. Taylor has pitched Slack as key to that ambition, saying that the chat app will be the one interface where Salesforce customers can access and collaborate around that information.


"This year I do feel like the entire economy has gone digital, and in particular, all the areas where Salesforce serves our customers," Taylor told Insider in July at the time the Slack deal closed. "The opportunity to have Slack amplify and really be at the way people engage with our software and really engage with all the software that they use is this tremendous opportunity."

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