Marc Benioff: Why His Family Acquired Time Magazine For $190 Million

By Amit Chowdhry ● September 23, 2018

Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff announced recently that he and his wife Lynne Benioff are going to buy Time magazine for $190 million in cash from Meredith Corporation. To explain why he bought Time magazine from Meredith, he conducted an interview with The New York Times over text message while getting a massage.

The Benioffs’ purchase of Time magazine comes eight months after Meredith bought the 95-year-old publication eight months prior. Meredith had purchased Time Inc — which is the publisher of Time, People, Sports Illustrated and Fortune —  in November 2017 for $1.84 billion in an all-cash deal backed by Charles and David Koch. Meredith had also previously attempted to buy Time Inc in 2013, but that deal fell through.

Time was originally started by Yale University graduates Henry Luce and Briton Hadden. And Time started distributing its first issue in March 1923. The two of them worked on the Yale Daily News together before that.

Marc Benioff told The Wall Street Journal that he and his wife invest in companies with “tremendous impact on the world.” And he added that is what they look for when investing as a family. When The New York Times asked Benioff about where he got the idea of buying Time, he said he had been speaking with the CEO of Meredith since he bought Time about all of the assets under the brand.

And then when The New York Times asked about where his interest in media came from, Benioff said that Time is aligned with the impact investing he does. Benioff also cited nearly 200 companies that he has invested in. Then The New York Times asked Benioff why he did not buy Fortune magazine instead.

“Time is the best fit for us. I really liked the Meredith team, and I definitely wanted to do something with them. It just wasn’t clear what it was. When Time emerged as the candidate we all felt it was right. That took nine months to figure out,” wrote Benioff. “If Meredith didn’t buy Time Inc. this never would have happened. Meredith is the key player.”

Benioff also pointed out that he lives with a “beginner’s mind” and did not realize he was going to buy Time about two weeks prior to the deal happening. In the text message conversation, Benioff quoted Suzuki “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” And he said his power was that he did not really want to do anything but was open to all possibilities.

Benioff confirmed that Time magazine will remain in New York rather than relocating it to San Francisco. And Time magazine will not have any connection to Salesforce as it will operate independently. And Benioff said that he will have a hands-off approach operationally as Time magazine is “very profitable” and Meredith will continue being a “key partner going forward.”

Although the sale of Time is expected to close soon, negotiations for the sales of Fortune, Money, and Sports Illustrated are still ongoing.

The Benioffs are not the only tech billionaires who have acquired a media brand. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had acquired The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013. And Laurene Powell Jobs purchased a majority stake in The Atlantic last year.