The Wisdom of Marc Benioff: CEO Daily

October 15, 2019, 9:33 AM UTC

Good morning.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is one of the most intriguing CEOs of our times. He is bigger than life, both literally and figuratively. The company he built is a powerhouse, and routinely ranks high on Fortune lists like 100 Best Companies to Work For (#2), Future 50 (#10), World’s Most Admired (#14), and 100 Fastest Growing Companies (#39). If you bought shares when Salesforce went public in 2004, you would have earned a total return of almost 3,500%.

Benioff also defines the vanguard of what’s come to be called the “activist CEO”—starting with his effort against the Indiana religious liberties law in 2015, which he saw as violating gay rights, and continuing up to his more recent campaign in favor of a tax on big companies to fight homelessness in San Francisco last year. That activism is the topic of his new book, out this week, called Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change. He chatted recently with Fortune editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf to discuss it. You can read the full interview here, but a few choice excerpts:

  • On capitalism: “I would say that capitalism, as we know it, is dead. And that businesses have to move to a new capitalism; a more equal, fair and sustainable way of doing business—one that values all stakeholders as well as shareholders.”
  • On big tech: “I think this is a critical time for our industry (technology.) If trust is not your highest value, your employees will walk out….When I called Facebook the new cigarettes, which is kind of what I said at Davos in January of 2018, a lot of people didn’t know what I was saying at that point. But now they do. They understand: It’s not good for you. It’s addictive. They are after your kids. They need to be regulated.”
  • On equal pay for women: “Because this is a subconscious bias, you have to monitor and measure it on a regular basis. So this is just happening automatically when people are getting hired. But number two is, we didn’t realize that when we acquired companies, we weren’t just buying their innovation, we were also buying their pay scales….What business books talk about that?”
  • On being a public company: “When you go public, it’s a cleansing. When you start to apply things like Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC regulations, governance, quarterly board meetings, investor statements, earnings calls, it’s a cleansing…and it’s very healthy. And I think a lot of these companies, they stay private too long.”

A review of Benioff’s book is running in the November issue of Fortune magazine, but you can read an excerpt on this morning, here. Other news below.

Alan Murray


Libra Charter

The remaining members of the Facebook-led Libra Association have signed their charter, following the departure of players such as Visa, Mastercard, Stripe, PayPal and eBay—and Booking Holdings, which bailed at the last minute. That leaves the likes of Lyft, Uber, Spotify and Vodafone supporting the social network's cryptocurrency play. Fortune

Zuck's Meetings

Mark Zuckerberg has recently been holding informal dinners with conservative pundits such as Tucker Carlson and Hugh Hewitt, and lawmakers such as Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. The meetings, at Zuckerberg's homes, are reportedly part of an effort to cultivate allies on the right, in the context of conservative attacks on Facebook's supposed liberal bias, and potential moves by the Justice Department toward a possible breakup of the company. Politico

Immigration Plea

The U.S. should make it easier for highly-skilled immigrants to come to the country, according to 63 CEOs and deans from business schools across the nation, who warn that the U.S. does not have the talent it needs. Suggested measures for the government to implement include the removal of per-country visa caps, and the creation of a "heartland visa" to funnel talent to parts of the country that most need it. Graduate Management Admission Council

Turkey Sanctions

President Trump froze trade talks with Turkey and announced a 50% tariff on the country's steel exports. The result? The Turkish lira strengthened against the dollar. Analysts say the tariff threats are just "window dressing" designed to appease a Congress that's furious about Turkey's invasion of Kurdish territory in northern Syria, after Trump ordered an abrupt U.S. withdrawal. CNBC


Best Workplaces

Which companies around the world are the best places to work? We have a list for that—Fortune's latest rundown of the World's 25 Best Workplaces includes names such as Cisco, Salesforce and McDonald's. Fortune

U.K. Renewables

Last quarter, the U.K. for the first time used more electricity from renewable sources (40%) than from fossil fuels (39%.) But how does that compare on the global stage? It's in line with other big European economies, way below the share of renewables in energy generation in Costa Rica and Norway, and way above the share in the U.S. and Japan. Fortune

J&J Suits

The Journal has a piece on Johnson & Johnson's tactic of going to court to fight legions of lawsuits against it, over issues ranging from baby powder to the opioid epidemic. In the middle of this year, J&J was facing suits from at least 103,000 plaintiffs—and it keeps losing in court. Wall Street Journal

Woodford Equity

The U.K. investment manager Neil Woodford is furious after his fund's administrator decided to wind it up. The $4.4 billion Woodford Equity Income Fund was suspended on June 3 after a run of bad bets left investors scrambling to withdraw their cash. Guardian

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.

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