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There isn’t another CEO in the world who would give an interview to The New York Times by text message while getting a massage.
Then again there isn’t another CEO in the world like Marc Benioff, who, together with his wife Lynne, is buying Fortune sister publication TIME for $190 million. For anyone who thinks it’s a kooky idea to buy a fading newsweekly, they don’t know Benioff very well. This is a guy who with a straight face claims he got the idea to start his company, Salesforce.com, while standing on top of a dormant volcano. There was evidently still enough energy underground to spawn tens of billions of dollars in market value.
Even if the Benioffs never succeed with TIME, they’ll have accomplished a kind of cosmic payback. The technology industry has sucked the air out of journalism. Entrepreneurs like Benioff and his now fellow media mogul Jeff Bezos, owner of the The Washington Post, have transferred a tiny sliver of wealth back into an industry that needs it badly.
What will Benioff do with TIME? The words I used when I profiled Benioff’s leadership qualities a year ago suggest a path ahead. “Under Benioff’s quirky, obsessive, and dripping-with-chutzpah tactics, Salesforce is as original a product marketer as exists in enterprise (or non-consumer) technology,” I wrote. He’ll bring those tactics and a zany vision to a magazine that has been under the same ownership with Fortune for nearly 90 years.
I wish them all luck.