Marc Benioff, the billionaire founder of SaaS behemoth Salesforce, just bought Time magazine with his wife, Lynne Benioff, for $190m.
For founders like Benioff, Bezos and other tech tycoons, buying legacy media publications has become a trendy new type of philanthropy that builds trust with a jaded public.
Where have you Benioff this whole Time?
The Meredith Corporation became the world’s largest magazine conglomerate when it acquired Time Inc. 8 months ago for $1.84B — and then immediately put the company’s flagship publications up for sale.
Now Big Benioff — who runs a $120B company — will own Time, which remains barely profitable as its circulation slowly decreases (it fell from 3m last year to 2.3m today).
Subtlety has never been Benioff’s specialty
Known for big ideas and bold opinions, Benioff has also been a politically active CEO — threatening to pull his business out of states that aren’t up to speed on gay rights. Some critics worry that Benioff’s strong opinions wills impact Time’s coverage, but Time reps claim the “transaction is unrelated to Salesforce.com.”
Speaking with a New York Times reporter via text while getting an evening massage, Benioff insisted he “is not going to get involved operationally.” But just because he’s not actively working for Time doesn’t mean Time won’t be actively working for him.
Benioff isn’t the first techie billionaire to jump into media
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013, Laurene Powell Jobs (widow of Apple CEO Steve Jobs) bought The Atlantic in 2017, and biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the LA Times this year.
This new breed of media mogul isn’t concerned about good returns, but goodwill. Tech founders have plenty of cash but very little trust, while print media companies suffer from the inverse.
As CEOs increasingly function as PR ambassadors on behalf of their businesses, Benioff and Bezos can position themselves as “stewards of iconic (media) brands,” while doing their personal brands a big favor.