Salesforce billionaire Marc Benioff has become a loud opponent of state legislation that critics say discriminates against LGBT people.
But he’s also become the ringleader to get other CEOs to join him speak out. This began in Indiana last year, where Salesforce is a major employer, and he succeeded at getting Indiana to modify the law.
He then took on Georgia, where he helped rally business leaders so strongly that the governor vetoed the bill.
Now the fight has moved to North Carolina, with companies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank cancelling jobs and expansion plans.
He calls them. He emails them. He throws lavish parties — in March, for instance, he invited CEOs to a sushi dinner at his main San Francisco house, with celebrities like magician David Blaine, and urged them to act against the Georgia law.
Where corporate CEOs once felt compelled to keep mum about polarising political issues such as gay rights, now they are being cajoled to speak up.
For instance, Benioff publicly blasted Apple CEO Tim Cook for not taking on the Georgia bill. Cook had came out in a big, powerful way against the Indiana bill, writing an opinion piece against it in 2015.
So Benioff waylaid Cook at Vanity Fair’s Academy Awards party and personally asked him to discuss the Georgia law, Langley reports.
In the end, Cook didn’t go out stumping on the issue alongside Benioff. But Apple as a company has been joining in the public criticism of these bills.
A lot of CEOs don’t like what Benioff is doing.
“I’ve received some very heated emails that joining the cause would be disastrous for their companies,” Benioff told Langley.
But other CEOs love it. Yelp’s Jeremy Stoppelman describes is as “creating cover” so other he and others are free to speak out.
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