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Salesforce under siege from top activist hedge fund

PIX Now -- Monday morning news headlines from the KPIX newsroom
PIX Now -- Monday morning news headlines from the KPIX newsroom 10:01

SAN FRANCISCO  -- Software giant Salesforce, one of the 30 stocks in the venerable Dow Jones Industrial Average, had a miserable 2022. Now the company is under attack from a big hedge fund that wants to shake things up at the company that owns Slack.

Elliott Management, a firm that has taken activist stakes in Pinterest, PayPal, Twitter (before Elon Musk acquired it) and former CNN owner AT&T over the past few years, is now targeting Salesforce. Shares of Salesforce rose more than 4% on the news in early trading Monday.

A source close to the situation said that Elliott Management took a multi-billion dollar stake in Salesforce. Elliott would not divulge the size of its position in Salesforce to CNN Business, but the company did confirm its investment.

"Salesforce is one of the preeminent software companies in the world, and having followed the company for nearly two decades we have developed a deep respect for [Salesforce CEO] Marc Benioff and what he has built," said Elliott managing partner Jesse Cohn in a statement to CNN Business.

"We look forward to working constructively with Salesforce to realize the value befitting a company of its stature," Cohn added.

Salesforce was not immediately available for comment.

Shares of Salesforce plunged nearly 50% last year due to slowing growth and management turmoil. Co-CEO Bret Taylor stepped down, leaving Salesforce chairman and co-founder Benioff as sole CEO.

The company also recently announced plans to lay off around 10% of its staff due to the weakness in the tech sector.

Salesforce, like many other tech firms that are now cutting jobs, hired aggressively during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the work from home boom led to a surge in demand for cloud software that made it easier for companies to manage their businesses remotely.

Benioff was even named CEO of the Year by CNN Business for 2020.

However, Salesforce spent a LOT of money over the past few years on acquisitions, scooping up workforce productivity tool Slack as well as software firms Tableau and MuleSoft for nearly $50 billion. Investors are now wondering if the deals were worth it.

Salesforce also has to contend with tough competition from the likes of Oracle, German software giant SAP and Microsoft, which has a top Slack rival in Teams.

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