The Salesforce co-CEO will become the latest tech titan to get into the media ownership game and is promising a hands-off approach to running the legendary magazine.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on September 17, 2018

Writing on Twitter, Benioff positioned himself as the keeper of the flame rather than a corporate raider.

“The power of Time has always been in its unique storytelling of the people & issues that affect us all & connect us all,” he wrote. “A treasure trove of our history & culture. We have deep respect for their organization & honored to be stewards of this iconic brand.”

Tech titans like Bezos and Jobs buying media brands

Benioff’s acquisition of the magazine continues a trend of leading tech figures buying up old media flagships. Amazon CEO and co-founder Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post in 2013 for a sum of US$250 million.

Similarly, Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, acquired a majority stake in The Atlantic with her philanthropic organisation Emerson Collective.

Benioff and his wife Lynne are purchasing the magazine from Meredith in a personal capacity and the business will be run separately from Salesforce. Neither Marc nor Lynne Benioff will be involved in the day to day operation of the magazine or have editorial oversight.

Tom Harty, President and CEO of Meredith, said the company was “pleased to have found such passionate buyers”.

“For over 90 years, Time has been at the forefront of the most significant events and impactful stories that shape our global conversation.”

In a memo to Time staff, Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal wrote that the Benioffs have “a confluence of purpose” with the magazine.

“One of the first challenges Marc and Lynne gave us is to think big, really big. Beyond the five-year plan, what will Time look like in 2040? What will it mean to people decades from now?” Felsenthal wrote.

“That’s what we’ll all be thinking about as we create a new home for Time rooted in what we know how to do so well, with the resources we need to reach our greatest potential as individuals and as a team, supported by owners with a sterling record of innovation and of building collaborative, creative cultures.”

Meredith acquired Time last year when it purchased Time. Inc

Meredith sold Time just one year after acquiring it as part of the Time. Inc stable for US$1.8 billion. Other iconic magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens are also part of Time Inc.

At the time, some analysts believed Meredith was buying Time Inc. as part of the company’s broader plan to turn its broadcasting arm into a standalone company but it is now looking to sell most of the magazines.

Meredith, which became the largest magazine company in the world with last year’s acquisition of Time Inc., said it intends to use the money from the sale to pay down debt. It aims to cut its debt by US$1 billion during the 2018/19 fiscal year.

Header image credit: Thomas Cloer