Just days after Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor announced his resignation, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield announced that he will be stepping down in January. Business Insider first reported the news. TechCrunch has confirmed the news with Salesforce by email.
The company also announced that Lidiane Jones, who has been the executive VP and GM for digital experiences clouds at Salesforce, would be taking over for Butterfield, leaving a succession plan that had apparently been lacking when Taylor surprised everyone by stepping down last week.
“Stewart is an incredible leader who created an amazing, beloved company in Slack. He has helped lead the successful integration of Slack into Salesforce and today Slack is woven into the Salesforce Customer 360 platform,” the company said in a statement.
The statement went on to discuss the succession plan: “Stewart also was instrumental in choosing Lidiane Jones as the next Slack CEO to lead it into its next chapter. Lidiane has a strong background in customer and enterprise tech and has been among Salesforce’s leadership for over three years. We’re grateful for Stewart and excited for Lidiane as she takes over the reins at Slack.”
She had this to say about her new job in a tweet today:
Butterfield came to Salesforce when the company bought Slack for $27 billion at the end of 2020. This comes on top of the news on Thursday, that Tableau CEO Mark Nelson would also be moving on. It makes you wonder, what is going on in the C-suite at Salesforce.
Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, who has been watching Salesforce since its earliest days, says this could explain why Benioff looked so upset at last week’s earnings’ call, even beyond the initial shock of Taylor’s announcement. “My first thought was that things like this usually happen in threes — first was Bret, the next day the Tableau CEO, Mark Nelson, and now this. But with the Bret being the architect of the $27 billion Slack acquisition and now the founder/CEO announcing his departure within days of each other, you kind of feel like this was the other shoe to drop. And this news must’ve been another reason why Marc was so visibly shaken last week when he announced Bret was stepping down,” Leary told TechCrunch.
Butterfield began is entrepreneurial journey when he helped found the photo-sharing site Flickr in 2004. He sold that company to Yahoo a year later (the current version of Yahoo owns this publication). He would later found a game called Glitch. The game didn’t go anywhere, but the company’s internal communication platform would later become Slack, the company he named in around 2013. It quickly grew in popularity and eventually went public in 2019 before Salesforce bought it in late 2020.
He told TechCrunch at the time of the sale that he had originally approached Taylor about buying Quip from Salesforce. Instead, that discussion led to Salesforce buying his company.
“I actually talked to Bret in the early days of the pandemic to see if they wanted to sell us Quip because I thought it would be good for us, and I didn’t really know what their plans were [for it]. He said he’d get back to me, and then got back to me six months later or so,” Butterfield said.
At that point, the conversation flipped and the companies began a series of discussions that eventually led to Salesforce acquiring Slack.
Now Butterfield is stepping away. Perhaps the timing of all these announcements is all a huge coincidence, but it sure feels like piling on at the moment. Salesforce has always had a deep bench of executives, but that talent pool is more than a bit thinned out after these three announcements in quick succession.
Salesforce stock is down almost 5% this morning.