Salesforce Draws Yet Another Activist—This Time Over ‘Wokeness’
By Lauren Thomas, February 28, 2023
A shareholder known for railing against corporate “wokeness” is setting its sights on Salesforce, joining at least five other activists with positions in the software company’s stock.
Strive Asset Management, whose co-founder, Vivek Ramaswamy, recently entered the 2024 presidential race seeking the Republican nomination, sent a letter to Salesforce Chief Executive Marc Benioff on Monday criticizing the company for “using its corporate bullhorn to wade into the divisive social issues de jour.” A copy of the letter was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Among other things, Strive is asking Salesforce to revise its employment policy to make hiring decisions based on merit alone, without considering race, sex or political beliefs.
Strive, which started up last year, has recently launched public attacks against Chevron and Walt Disney. The firm, which manages less than $1 billion, has a puny stake in Salesforce, measuring a little under $1 million, people familiar with the matter said.
However small, it adds to the activist pressure facing Salesforce, which has been beset by slowing growth and upheaval in its top ranks.
Other activists that at least as of recently held positions in the company’s shares:
- Third Point, Elliott Investment Management, Starboard Value, ValueAct Capital Partners and Inclusive Capital.
Their stakes dwarf Strive’s. Elliott’s, for example, measures in the billions of dollars.
It’s not yet clear what all the investors, and particularly Elliott, may want. For Strive’s part, it said Salesforce’s issues “run deeper than mismanaged costs and mistimed acquisitions.” Among its criticisms, Strive called out the company’s “Woke Wednesdays,” and similar social events for employees, as well as Salesforce’s lobbying and donations for causes including a police-reform bill in Washington state.
“We seek to deliver a simple message to your board: stop using your business as a ‘platform for social change’ and focus on serving your customers alone,” wrote Strive co-founder Anson Frericks.
Salesforce is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings for its fiscal year on Wednesday afternoon, when it may publicly address the activist pressure for the first time.