Aston Martins, Cartier watches, and electric BMWs – Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff lavishes expensive gifts on his top executives

If you work at Salesforce, there’s a chance you drive a very nice Aston Martin to work every day - but there’s a much bigger chance that your annual bonus was recently cut by 30% or that you are one of the 8,000 employees the company recently laid off. One of these things is not like the others. 

Recently, Insider revealed that CEO Marc Benioff has lavished very expensive gifts upon his C-suite, including an Aston Martin for chief marketing officer Sarah Franklin and an electric BMW for Advisory Board Chairman Alex Dayon. Salesforce cofounder Parker Harris received a car costing over $200k in 2017, and former co-CEO Keith Block was given a $40,000 watch as far back as 2015, "in recognition of his success leading the sales organization in the first quarter of fiscal year 2016," according to the SEC filing from that year.

Meanwhile, despite record adjusted operating margins of 22.5% in its most recent financial year - and plans for 27% margins by the end of FY24 - Salesforce has laid off 10% of its workforce in the last few months.

"We're moving aggressively across all four fronts of our transformation plan — short-term and long-term restructuring of the company; improving productivity and performance; prioritizing our core innovations; and building a deeper and even stronger relationship with our stockholders," Benioff wrote to shareholders in late April.

In January 2023, an SEC filing showed that Benioff was given a compensation package worth $30 million in the previous fiscal year - the same month that Salesforce began its mass layoffs. 

Meanwhile, Salesforce stock surged by the most in almost three years on Friday, May 5, as the company raised its forecast for profit margins and doubled its stock buyback plans amid pressure from activist investors. 

The company’s newfound focus on profitability comes after a tumultuous year for the company, when activist investors including Elliott Capital Management pressured the company to refocus on profits or risk a restructuring of its executive team and board of directors. Benioff appears to have taken the warnings seriously, and after layoffs and other changes, is focused on raking in big profits. 

And if you’re one of the executives lucky enough to have survived layoffs, then you might just end up with a shiny new sports car, or maybe a pristine Swiss-movement watch. And you might want to hold on to your job for the foreseeable future, because the rumors of the end of Salesforce's reign seem to have been greatly exaggerated.  

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