Marc Benioff: ‘I want Time magazine to be unshackled’

Posted at 6:19 AM, Oct 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-04 08:19:17-04

Salesforce’s Marc Benioff says he bought Time magazine because he “values storytellers” and wants to protect an iconic brand — but says he’ll stay out of editorial decisions.

In a sit-down interview with CNN’s Laurie Segall, Benioff explained that he “value[s] storytellers like yourself. I value journalists. I value photographers. I value the artists. I actually think that they are the ones that are going to get us through this, not the technologists.”

“It’s people like you and them who are going to paint the mosaic that we’re all going to march towards,” he added. “And Time magazine is one of those artists.”

Benioff joined a growing list of billionaire tech CEOs buying up media properties when he and his wife Lynne purchased Time magazine for $190 million from Meredith Corporation (MDP) in September. Benioff said he had been speaking with Meredith about the company’s assets in light of its acquisition of Time Inc. in January.

“It was just clear to both of us that the values of Time were so deeply connected to our personal values that we would be good stewards of this historic and iconic brand,” Benioff said.

The buy aligned with his “spiritual values,” Benioff told Segall. “I have deeply connected to things that matter to me. One of the things that really matters to me is having a positive global impact.”

Meredith announced it was buying Time magazine and the rest of Time Inc. for $2.8 billion last November. CNN reported that month that Meredith planned to sell $650 million worth of the business to a company owned by Charles and David Koch.

When Benioff purchased Time, he joined the ranks of other billionaires buying print publications. Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013. Patrick Soon-Shiong paid twice that amount to purchase the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and the rest of Tronc’s California News Group earlier this year.

However, the idea of high-profile CEOs buying media outlets covering their own sectors of business and tech inherently prompts ethical questions.

As Segall put it: “How do you ensure that as we go forward, as you own parts of the media, that there is no overlap? That you take that step back? That if we were going to write the worst thing in the world about Marc Benioff and Salesforce, that we wouldn’t have to be concerned about Marc Benioff?”

“I’m not going to be editorial[ly] involved at all,” Benioff said. “I’m not going to be operationally involved at all. I’ve already met with the management team and told them that. I want them to be unshackled…. I want those editors and writers and photographers and visionaries to be free. And to really help us and guide us.”

“Time magazine has a history of being a trusted guide for humanity, and I just want them to continue to do that,” he said. “People are naturally attracted to…Time to do that. And that’s what I want them to do. That’s all I want them to do.”