Slack CEO Is $400 million richer from Salesforce deal talks

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Stewart Butterfield is already benefitting from’s potential acquisition of Slack Technologies.

The fortune of Slack’s billionaire co-founder and chief executive officer increased about $400 million from reports this week that Salesforce is considering taking over the workplace chat tool.

Slack shares surged as much as 34% while the news weighed on Salesforce, which fell as much as 5%.

Read more: Slack’s new tool automates administrative HR tasks

The companies have been holding talks and could announce a deal as soon as next week, the person said. A deal hasn’t been finalized and could still fall apart, the person said, asking not to be named because the matter is private.

Representatives for Salesforce and Slack couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Acquiring Slack, which has a market valuation of almost $22 billion following reports of the talks, would be Salesforce’s biggest deal ever, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The San Francisco-based company, led by Marc Benioff, last year acquired Tableau Software in an all-stock deal valued at $15.3 billion.

“Smart move by Benioff,” especially if he uses stock, said Anurag Rana, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “It helps both and Slack compete more aggressively with Microsoft.”

Slack soared to an intraday high of $39.73. The stock has fluctuated this year as the pandemic’s effect on businesses has spread to its customer base. Shares plummeted 19% in September after the company’s quarterly billings fell short of analysts’ estimates, as its small- and mid-sized business customers cut spending budgets. The San Francisco-based company went public via a direct listing in 2019.

Salesforce, which makes the U.S.’s dominant sales-tracking software, slid as much as 5.4%. It has climbed about 60% this year for a market valuation of $227 billion.

Kirk Materne, an analyst at Evercore ISI, said that Salesforce’s shares were down because this was “not the right target, nor the right time.”

“While there is some strategic rationale for this combination, we expect most investors will view the deal as a ‘reach’ in order to buy some growth” in 2021, Materne wrote in a note Wednesday.

Salesforce is hosting its annual Dreamforce conference next week, which will be virtual because of coronavirus restrictions. The event for customers, partners and employees will be a showcase for the software maker’s future products and strategy roadmap. Dreamforce is the largest software conference in the world and Benioff will give his highly anticipated keynote address on Wednesday.

If a deal happens, it wouldn’t be the first business Butterfield has sold. The 47-year-old offloaded photo and video hosting service Flickr to Yahoo! in 2005. He worked at Yahoo until 2008 and later founded the company that became Slack, an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.”

The Canadian entrepreneur, who studied philosophy in college, has come a long way from the log cabin in British Columbia where he lived without electricity and running water for the first few years of his life.

“My father’s from New York and my mother’s from Montreal, and they really had no idea what they were doing when they tried to live off the land,” Butterfield said in 2018. “It was pretty easy to grow a big zucchini, but you cannot live off zucchini alone. When I was about five, we moved to the city.”

Bloomberg News
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