Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield announced his impending resignation in January just a few days after Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor made the same announcement. The news was initially reported by Business Insider. Salesforce has emailed TechCrunch to confirm the news.
The organization also disclosed that Lidiane Jones, who has served as the executive VP and general manager for Salesforce’s cloud-based digital experiences, would succeed Butterfield. This fills the void left by Taylor’s abrupt resignation last week, which startled everyone.
“Stewart is a fantastic leader who built Slack into an outstanding, adored business. As a result of his leadership, Slack has been successfully integrated into the Salesforce Customer 360 platform, according to a statement from the firm.
The statement continued, describing the succession strategy: “Stewart also played a key role in selecting Lidiane Jones as the new CEO of Slack to guide the company into its next stage. Lidiane has been a member of Salesforce’s leadership for more than three years and has a solid background in enterprise and customer technology. We are appreciative of Stewart and anticipating Lidiane’s leadership of Slack.
When Salesforce acquired Slack for $27 billion at the end of 2020, Butterfield joined the firm. On top of that, Mark Nelson, the CEO of Tableau, announced on Thursday that he would be leaving the company. You start to wonder what is happening in Salesforce’s executive suite.
Beyond the immediate shock of Taylor’s statement, according to Brent Leary, founder and chief analyst at CRM Essentials, who has been following Salesforce since its inception, this may have contributed to Benioff’s expression of anger during last week’s earnings call. “My initial thinking was that events of this nature frequently occur in sets of three: first Bret, then Mark Nelson, CEO of Tableau, and now this. However, given that the founder and CEO of Slack announced his resignation just days after the Bret was named the architect of the $27 billion deal, it seems as though this was the moment when the other shoe would drop. And this information must have been another another factor in Marc’s apparent apprehension last week when he announced Bret’s resignation, Leary told TechCrunch.
In 2004, Butterfield co-founded the photo-sharing website Flickr, which marked the start of his entrepreneurial career. The next year, he sold the business to Yahoo (the current version of Yahoo owns this publication). Later, he would discover a game called Glitch. The game never took off, but the company’s internal messaging system would subsequently change its name to Slack, which he called in about 2013. It gained popularity swiftly and eventually went public in 2019 before being acquired by Salesforce in late 2020.
At the time of the deal, he revealed to TechCrunch that he had first approached Taylor about purchasing Quip from Salesforce. Instead, that conversation resulted in Salesforce purchasing his business.
“In the early days of the pandemic, I actually spoke to Bret 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 [for it] were. He promised to get in touch with me, and about six months later, he did,” Butterfield recalled.
At that point, the topic of conversation changed, and the businesses started having talks that eventually resulted in Salesforce buying Slack.
Butterfield is now backing off. Although it’s possible that the timing of each of these announcements was a complete coincidence, it feels like a lot right now. Although Salesforce has always had a strong executive bench, these three announcements in quick succession have significantly reduced its executive talent pool.
This morning, Salesforce stock is down nearly 5%.