Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block steps down, leaving Marc Benioff in charge

February 25, 2020, 11:58 PM UTC

Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block is stepping down, leaving the corporate software giant’s founder, Marc Benioff, as the sole CEO.

Block became Salesforce’s co-CEO in 2018, in a move pitched by the company as a way to let longtime CEO Benioff focus on strategy and culture while Block concentrated on day-to-day operations.

Salesforce gave no reason for the leadership shake up, just 17 months after creating the duel CEO role. But it does restore Benioff’s near total control of the company—he’s also chairman—that he founded 21 years ago.

During a call with analysts on Tuesday, Block merely said, “It’s a tremendous accomplishment, but I’m ready to start a new chapter.” He made no mention of whether he has taken a job at another company.

Meanwhile, Benioff ducked a question about Block’s departure, instead praising the leadership team that remains. Asked about how Salesforce plans to manage the risks related to Block’s departure considering his role in overseeing Salesforce’s critical business functions including its biggest sales deals, Benioff downplayed Block’s involvement.

When Salesforce promoted Block from chief operating officer to co-CEO, Block asked “to get out of the business of running the salesforce,” Benioff recalled. “That’s been something we’ve worked to do,” said Benioff, who avoided saying whether someone else would replace Block as co-CEO.

Salesforce revealed the executive exit at the same time it reported fiscal fourth quarter earnings. Sales during the period increased 35% year-over-year to $4.85 billion, beating analyst expectations of $4.75 billion.

In after-hours trading on Tuesday, Salesforce’s shares fell as low as 3.5% to $175.00, amid investor worries that Block’s immediate departure could be a distraction.

The company also said that it plans to buy the enterprise software company Vlocity for $1.33 billion. Salesforce Ventures, the company’s venture capital arm, was one of the lead investors for Vlocity’s latest $60 million fundraising in March. The startup, whose products work directly with Salesforce’s, had a private valuation of $1 billion, according to deal tracking service PitchBook. 

Also on Tuesday, Salesforce said it had named Gavin Patterson, a former chief executive of BT Group, as president and CEO of Salesforce International.

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