Who is Keith Block, the new Salesforce co-CEO?

© Salesforce
© Salesforce

The Salesforce board has elevated its former COO Keith Block to the role of co-CEO alongside founder Marc Benioff, here's how he got there

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In June 2012 Keith Block, the hard-nosed executive vice president of sales for North America at database giant Oracle, was let go from the company after messages and emails revealed that he had bashed company president Mark Hurd over the purchase of Sun Microsystems.

One year later Marc Benioff, the CEO at SaaS CRM giant Salesforce, hired Block as president and vice chairman, hailing the executive at the time as "the best sales executive" in enterprise software history.

Yesterday evening, on 7 August 2018, the board of directors at Salesforce elevated Block to the role of co-CEO alongside founder Marc Benioff, marking the culmination of a rapid rise from being fired at Oracle to being the leader-in-waiting at one of the biggest technology companies on the planet. Both Benioff and Block will report directly to the board of directors.

Speaking about the promotion as part of a press release, Benioff said: "Keith has been my trusted partner in running Salesforce for the past five years, and I'm thrilled to welcome him as co-CEO. Keith has outstanding operational expertise and corporate leadership experience, and I could not be happier for his promotion and this next level of our partnership."

The co-CEOs will have fairly neatly defined roles as leaders of the SaaS company. Benioff will continue to perform a role he has leant into over the past few years: leading Salesforce's vision and innovation across technology, marketing, stakeholder engagement and, perhaps most importantly, culture. Block will also play to his strengths, leading the company's growth strategy, execution and operations.

This change in management structure naturally brings with it questions regarding Benioff's role at a company he founded back in 1999.

Like his once-mentor and sometimes-adversary Larry Ellison has done at Oracle, he appears to be taking a back seat from day-to-day operations at the company in order to become its cultural figurehead. Benioff will look to embody and extol the values of the company and also free up his time to pursue philanthropic ventures, while Block has proven himself to be a trusted steward of the company commercially.

Read next: A brief history of Salesforce.com

Block comes from Lexington, Massachusetts and is a massive fan of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1984 with a M.S. & B.S. in management and policy before starting his career as a consultant at Booz Allen. He joined Oracle in 1986, quickly rising through the ranks before parting ways in 2012.

Since joining Salesforce he has served as a vice chairman, president and a director, and became chief operating officer in February 2016.

Since then Block has been busy aggressively moving Salesforce into new geographies and industry verticals, packaging up its technology and services specifically for the financial services and health industries.

Read next: Salesforce lauds vertical-specific products in Q3 earnings

Block's role had been to chart Salesforce to become a $10 billion run-rate company, a target that was reached and then surpassed in its Q2 2018 results. Now he has been rewarded for these efforts with the top job, the next thing will be to reach $20 billion.

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