Salesforce, the cloud-based software company co-founded and led by chief executive Marc Benioff, is in something of a mixed news cycle at the moment. On the one hand, the company just recently laid off around 10% of its work force, leaving roughly 8,000 employees jobless. On the other hand, as revealed by a recent Wall Street Journal exposé, the company has been paying Matthew McConaughey $10 million PER YEAR to serve as a "creative director." This relationship also resulted in a splashy commercial broadcast during last year's Super Bowl that apparently cost $5 million just for the air time, as in, not including production costs.
The WSJ reports that Benioff brought McConaughey to the company because the two are friends. A source speaking to the paper claimed that McConaughey's compensation – which was a mixture of cash and stock – had to be approved by the Salesforce compensation committee. Benioff claimed to have "no part" in the endorsement deal's final numbers.
Paying an actor $10 million a year to be a spokesman and "creative director" is fine when the company is flying high. It's less attractive with the news early this year that Salesforce was rolling out significant layoffs in view of the ongoing economic downturn. Benioff himself accepted blame for the layoffs in a company-wide email:
"As our revenue accelerated through the pandemic, we hired too many people leading into this economic downturn we're now facing, and I take responsibility for that."
The exact terms of McConaughey's "creative director" contract with Salesforce, including the dates involved and whether he's still on the company payroll, aren't known. But he has reportedly participated in high-level decision-making meetings at the company along with musician will.i.am. And it's possible that even after the layoffs and various other belt-tightening measures throughout the company, it's continuing to pay McConaughey for his creative director role.
Benioff has said that such expenditures are a drop in the bucket compared to Salesforce's total operation. Still, the combination of a high-paid celebrity spokesperson with thousands of employee layoffs is bound to be noticed, and not in a good way.