Meet new Salesforce CFO, the same as the old one

In an unusual move, Salesforce.com will retain Steve Cakebread, its current CFO, who had originally planned to quit the company in December.

On-demand software vendor Salesforce.com had a surprise up its sleeve late Wednesday, revealing the identity of its new chief financial officer (CFO). The new CFO is the same guy who's shepherded the company's finances since 2002, Steve Cakebread.

Cakebread announced in early June that he would retire from Salesforce.com on Dec. 31 and the customer relationship management (CRM) software vendor got busy interviewing replacements. He has now withdrawn that resignation and will continue to serve as CFO, Cakebread said Wednesday during a conference call with analysts to discuss the company's second-quarter financial results.

In keeping with the company's penchant for making a splash, Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive officer at Salesforce.com, acted as though the vendor had found someone new. "After interviewing more than 20 candidates, we have identified the right CFO who will help us achieve our goal of becoming a US$1 billion software company," he said on the call.

Only after laying out the candidate's qualifications, did Benioff reveal that Cakebread would remain in the CFO slot. "Steve's agreed to save his retirement for a later day," he said.

As he was involved in the search for his successor, Cakebread said "it became more and more clear there were still more exciting challenges" at Salesforce.com. "The decision to leave was very hard; the decision to stay was a very easy one," he added.

Both Cakebread and Benioff said that Salesforce.com is poised to become a company with an annual revenue of over US$500 million in its next quarter. They didn't provide a timeline of when they believe the vendor will become a US$1 billion operation.

For its second quarter, Salesforce.com reported a net loss of US$145,000 on revenue of US$118 million. With revenue growing 64 percent year-over-year, both executives described the quarter as an "excellent" one for the company.

Salesforce.com now has 24,800 customers using its hosted software and 501,000 paying subscribers, Benioff said. The vendor competes with the likes of Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and NetSuite.

Salesforce.com has an equal number of small, midsize and large customers and intends to continue to appeal to all sizes of users, Benioff said. Its largest customer is networking equipment giant Cisco Systems Inc. with 7,500 subscribers.

Looking ahead, Cakebread warned analysts not to place as much emphasis as in the past on Salesforce.com's subscriber numbers as a key metric for the company's performance. Salesforce.com now offers a variety of different editions for its hosted service as well as add-ons and support, meaning it has a number of different revenue-generating capabilities other than simply adding new users for its software, he said.

Cakebread joined Salesforce.com in June 2002 from Autodesk Inc. where he'd also held the CFO position after stints at both Silicon Graphics and Hewlett-Packard. He and Benioff led Salesforce.com through a successful initial public offering (IPO) in 2004 which raised US$110 million.

In a Wednesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Salesforce.com announced that Cakebread's annual base salary would rise to US$400,000 as of Sept. 1. He'll also be eligible to receive a maximum annual bonus of US$300,000 tied to company and personal performance goals.

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