Salesforce CEO and co-founder Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne paid $190 million in cash for Time, the 95-year old newsweekly. According to The Guardian, Benioff bought it earlier this year after former owner Meredith Corporation put it and several other publications up for sale. The purchase has nothing to do with Salesforce, just as Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of The Washington Post had nothing to do with Amazon.
Both parties insist that Benioff will have zero involvement with editorial direction or day-to-day operations, and the magazines current staff will remain in place. Benioff is also looking to buy Sports Illustrated, Money, and Fortune — the latter of which just so happened to name Salesforce the No. 1 company to work for in America.
In a text exchange with The New York Times that he undertook last night while getting a massage, in which he sent an image of a man with cucumber slices over his eyes, Benioff said Time was “aligned with the impact investing I do. I have a portfolio of almost 200 companies I have invested in.” Noting that the magazine will remain in New York, he added that investors had thwarted his 2016 attempt to buy Twitter.
While we remain extremely skeptical of billionaires who buy journalistic properties — but only because their track record is quite poor — this seems less like a political move than a business one. Since virtually everything at the top level of American journalism begs to be read through the lens of a president with a complicated relationship with the media, it’s worth noting that Benioff has said he wished Trump didn’t win. But he’s also expressed hope that they might work together — and indeed, a Salesforce contract with Customs and Border Patrol spurred RAICES (the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services) to return a $250,000 donation over Salesforce’s involvement with border detentions.
Further, we know the president holds a special regard for Time — so much so that he got busted for having a fake Time cover with himself on it in one of his golf clubs. Trump was Person of the Year in 2016, then pre-bragged that he’d win again the next year. (He didn’t.) But then again, the president is congenitally incapable of distinguishing notoriety from positive achievement. Also, the last U.S. president not to win at least once was Herbert Hoover. Still, it seems inevitable that Benioff and Trump will collide over this at some point.
Hopefully, Time will euthanize US News & World Report by publishing a less-horrible list of America’s top colleges and universities. But if Benioff suddenly wins Person of the Year for the next six years running, we reserve the right to arch an eyebrow.