Big Tech has been bleeding talent over the past 12 months with tens of thousands of people laid off. Salesforce is among them, axing 8,000 jobs in January alone, but it seems the software company is still willing to fork out for its star personnel.
Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey has been working with the brand since last year, having been brought on board to co-create and launch Salesforce’s #TeamEarth campaign. Its aim is to “inspire businesses and individuals to help build a more fair, equal, and sustainable future.”
McConaughey is reportedly a friend of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, known for referring to his employees as “family” while often lavishing them with perks. Over the years these have included wellness retreats and conferences—which welcomed the likes of former President Barack Obama and a performance from U2.
It seems McConaughey is similarly being looked after, with the Wall Street Journal reporting the popular film star is paid $10 million a year to offer creative advice and front campaigns. It is unclear when the contract began and what the terms are. McConaughey also does not appear on Salesforce’s website under either the executive team or the board of directors.
However the news could be tough to swallow if you’re one of Salesforce’s recently laid-off employees who were promised a “relatively generous” severance package, having been notified they had lost their roles in a 3 a.m. Slack message to staff.
Benioff, who fondly refers to staffers as “Ohana,” or family, held a company-wide two-hour meeting the following day in which he encouraged staff to look out for their former colleagues. A month later Benioff said he regretted holding the meeting, admitting he was trying to “explain the unexplainable.”
Benioff insisted to the WSJ that he played no part in the deal to bring McConaughey on board—nor had a hand in what he was paid. People familiar with the matter told the WSJ that the actor’s compensation—a combination of cash and equity—required approval by the Salesforce compensation committee.
In the announcement naming McConaughey as a brand partner in February 2022, Salesforce said the parties had cofounded the campaign to take “positive action” based on the belief that “businesses have a responsibility to drive change—not just profit.”
WME, which represents McConaughey, declined Fortune’s request for comment. Salesforce did not immediately respond to Fortune when approached for comment.
Big names in the boardroom
It might be easy to think that McConaughey has just been brought in to star in advertisements like Salesforce’s $5 million Super Bowl spot in 2022. However, he revealed to Variety that he had a direct hand in creating the spot, which saw him dressed as an astronaut floating through space and across Earth in a hot air balloon.
In the ad he exclaims: “It’s not time to escape. It’s time to engage. It’s time to plant more trees. It’s time to build more trust. It’s time to make more space for all of us. So while the others look to the metaverse and Mars, let’s stay here and restore ours.”
Yet his links to the company appear go even deeper than marketing, after the Financial Times reported both he and musician Will.I.Am have been spotted involved in “high-level corporate discussions.” Citing people familiar with the matter, the pair are reportedly frequently involved in strategy discussions at the company, “distracting from normal business.”
Another individual who works with the company’s senior management said the singer and actor were only involved in casual discussions and not formal strategy.
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