Billionaire Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Is Buying Up Hawaii

Billionaire Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Is Buying Up Hawaii

While normal, middle-class Americans struggle to buy starter homes or even just afford rent, American billionaires are busy buying up huge tracts of land all over the world for nebulous reasons. Case in point: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who is estimated to be worth over $US10 billion, is said to be buying up huge chunks of land in Hawaii. Why? Nobody knows and Benioff won’t say why.

NPR was the first to report that the billionaire had recently bought “at least 38 parcels of land” using six anonymous “limited liability companies, or LLCs, and one nonprofit.” That land, much of which is located on the Big Island and encompasses large portions of the city of Waimea, amounts to nearly 600 acres and is estimated to be worth almost $US100 million.

Some of the land, about 223 acres, was donated to an affordable housing non-profit last year. However, the other land acquisitions remain a mystery. The journalist behind the NPR story, Dara Kerr, was able to secure an interview with Benioff at one of his residences on the island. Benioff spent most of their chat talking about his philanthropic efforts but dodging direct questions about what the land he’d purchased was for. Kerr writes:

Benioff deflects the majority of my questions to talk about his philanthropy…How he has donated millions to the fire department — his beachside home has nearly burned down. How his philosophy is to give unconditionally without expecting anything in return. How he has donated around $US100 million in Hawaii and has been able to remain anonymous until now.

…When I ask Benioff about the properties in the anonymous LLCs, things seem to take a turn. He starts speaking more quickly and fidgets with a piece of paper in his hand. He’s reluctant to go through the holdings, and his adviser on the Zoom call jumps in to say we can discuss later.

Kerr also notes that Benioff knew a creepy amount about her—including the neighborhood she was staying in when she visited for the interview, as well as “personal details” about her and her family. Kerr says she left the interview feeling “disconcerted” and unclear about the purpose of Benioff’s land procurements. Later, after the interview, Kerr and a photographer were confronted by one of Benioff’s employees while attempting to take pictures of some of the properties pertaining to the story. Benioff then texted Kerr to tell her that his employee had caught her “snooping,” and the billionaire proceeded to contact Kerr’s boss about the incident. Kerr writes:

The following day, I drive around with a photographer to take pictures of the town and Benioff’s projects. We go to the property he described as a community center and are confronted by one of his employees. The photographer explains we’re there to take photos of the outside of the building. Shortly afterward, I get a text from Benioff. His employee seemed to think we were “snooping,” and he says he’s escalating the incident to NPR CEO John Lansing. Lansing confirmed he spoke with Benioff, without going into detail — the NPR newsroom operates independently, and the CEO is not involved in editorial decision-making. Benioff didn’t respond to my question about the purpose of this call.

Benioff isn’t the only wealthy American participating in obscene land grabs. Buying land for dumb reasons is very in vogue with the rich these days. No better example of this exists than California Forever, the quixotic real estate project backed by Silicon Valley billionaires that have hoovered up hundreds of acres of Bay Area land for the purpose of turning it into a new city.

A gaggle of other nabobs have similar ambitions. There’s Dryden Brown, a wealthy 27-year-old who claims he wants to build a new “crypto city” with other people’s money. There’s Marc Lore, a former Walmart executive and the co-founder of, who says he wants to build a “sustainable” city in Appalachia. And there’s Kanye West, who wants to build a new city in the Middle East; the rapper says his metropolis will be called DROAM and will span at least 100,000 acres.

While it’s tempting to envision what kind of Fyre-fest-on-steroids DROAM might be, I present an alternate plan of action: Have the federal government tax the wealthiest Americans at 90 percent and use the proceeds to subsidize affordable housing. I think that’d be a whole lot more effective than waiting for the world’s richest idiots to figure out how urban planning works.

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