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6/7/2013
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Salesforce.com Appoints Oracle Vet As President

Oracle's long-time sales kingpin Keith Block lands top spot at Salesforce.com one year after a nasty split with his former employer.

One year ago, Keith Block resigned as executive VP of North American Sales & Consulting at Oracle. On Thursday, Salesforce.com announced that Block will become that company's president, vice chairman and a member of the board of directors.

Block was the top dog of Oracle's sales organization for years, credited with leading a transformation to a specialized sales model to support specific industries, solutions and market segments.

"We are thrilled to welcome Keith to Salesforce.com," said Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in a statement. "His exceptional track record leading sales, consulting and engineering teams makes him a powerful addition to our world-class distribution and leadership team."

Block's departure from Oracle wasn't pretty. By all accounts Block was forced out after derogatory remarks surfaced in internal messages. Those remarks were publicly shared in the court case with HP tied to Oracle's decision to stop making software for Itanium-chip-based servers (a decision subsequently reversed by court order).

In one internal instant message shared as evidence during the trial, Block commented that Oracle "bought a dog" when it acquired Sun Microsystems. In another exchange, Block slighted Oracle president Mark Hurd for generating "lots of noise, not much results" and for not traveling outside the U.S. often enough.

[ Want more on Salesforce.com's latest cloud acquisition? Read Salesforce.com's ExactTarget Buy Equals Marketing Clout. ]

Block now joins one of Oracle's biggest rivals, and it's likely no coincidence he's doing so roughly one year to the day after resigning, as he likely had a non-compete agreement with his former employer. Salesforce is clearly hoping Block can help the company build out its fast-growing sales organization, reach into new markets and tap into some of Oracle's most lucrative accounts.

Salesforce has been growing at a torrid, double-digit pace in recent years, growing from $1 billion in annual revenue in fiscal 2009 to $3 billion in 2013. Benioff's oft-stated goal is to grow Salesforce into a $10 billion company, but keeping up those heady growth rates will only get harder as the company gets larger.

"I'm incredibly excited to join Salesforce.com and help pave the way to $10 billion by delivering innovation, growth and customer success," Block said in a statement.

Block is taking a big step up in corporate roles at Salesforce as vice chairman and a member of the board of directors. He was a member of Oracle's executive committee but was otherwise focused on operational matters.

Block's appointment at Salesforce is certainly another juicy episode in the ongoing Silicon Valley soap opera. Will he set the tone from above or take more of a hands-on approach? Will an already-successful sales team easily take to Block's hard-charging leadership style? Will Block make Salesforce even more of a magnet to Oracle's top salespeople, exacerbating that company's uneven financial results over recent quarters?

Tune in tomorrow.

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