Can 4 activist investors play nice in the Salesforce sandbox? • TechCrunch

Salesforce finds itself in a rather unusual situation, with four activist investors operating inside the company at the same time: Elliott Management, Starboard Value, ValueAct and Inclusive Capital. Experts suggest that having so many activist investors in play at once at a major tech company like Salesforce is exceptional.

What do these folks want from Salesforce, which is hardly in full distress? Sure, the stock is down, but Salesforce raked in $8 billion last quarter.

But that could be precisely why the investors are so interested — because they believe whatever they think is wrong can be fixed fairly quickly, and everyone can make a lot of money without a lot of fuss.

That may or may not be the case. When you have four strong personalities involved in the same game, even if their end goal is in sync, how do you get them all collaborating to pull CEO Marc Benioff and the board of directors in line with them? And let’s not forget that Benioff has a pretty strong personality himself.

If the investors have differing opinions about what’s wrong at Salesforce, it can create an opening for Benioff to negotiate, something that activist investors don’t typically like to do. Instead, they like to dictate terms and position themselves — usually by capturing board seats — to make sure the company does what they want. Salesforce did announce three new board members last week, including ValueAct CEO and chief investment officer Mason Morfit.

But with four firms, who gets additional board seats? Who negotiates these changes? Do they work together or do they come apart? It’s an interesting exercise in teamwork. Can these investors share the responsibility without driving each other crazy?

Searching for consensus

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