Marc Benioff, the billionaire co-founder of software maker Salesforce.com Inc., is making a play to project his influence far beyond Silicon Valley with the purchase of Time magazine.
The 53-year-old entrepreneur and his wife, Lynne, agreed to pay $190 million in cash to Meredith Corp. for the venerable but struggling print publication, stoking comparisons to Amazon.com Inc.'s Jeff Bezos. Benioff, who has long sought to burnish his image as a civic leader and is well known in his company's home city of San Francisco, may gain a higher level of national visibility in his new role of media baron.
The transaction is reminiscent of Bezos' $250 million acquisition of the Washington Post in 2013. That purchase brought Bezos a Pulitzer Prize-winning, 140-year-old newspaper but also put him in the cross hairs of President Donald Trump, who has called the Post an "expensive lobbyist" for Amazon.
The Benioffs said they won't be involved in day-to-day operations or journalistic decisions at the magazine and plan to keep its current leadership team in charge. Still, at a time when Trump counts mainstream American media as his personal enemy, the Benioffs' national profile is bound to grow with the deal. Time has featured Trump on its cover almost two dozen times since he announced his bid for the presidency — often accompanying critical stories. Benioff himself has been an outspoken critic of Trump in public appearances and through his Twitter account, where he often shares his progressive opinions.
"We are honored to be the caretakers of one of the world's most important media companies and iconic brands," the Benioffs said in a statement Sunday. "Time has always been a trusted reflection of the state of the world, and reminds us that business is one of the greatest platforms for change."