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Billionaire Marc Benioff, Under Fire in Hawaii, Gifts $150M to Hospitals

Denis Balibouse/Reuters
Denis Balibouse/Reuters

In the wake of unflattering press about his land-buying spree in Hawaii, Salesforce billionaire Marc Benioff announced a $150 million gift on Tuesday to improve healthcare in the island state.

A press release said the donation was the culmination of a year of collaboration between three hospitals, the Hilo Medical Center, Hawai'i Pacific Health, and UCSF Health. Benioff’s wife, Lynne, is a co-donor of the gift.

“We feel fortunate to have been part of the Hawai'i community for many decades and to be able to support our ohana in this way. Nothing is more important than the health of our community, and access to care for all who need it,” the couple said in a joint statement.

Salesforce Is Ditching Its Awkward Corporate Obsession With Hawaiian Culture

In late January, NPR reported that Benioff had “quietly” amassed an enormous property portfolio in Hawaii and that he has recently bought up inland parcels, stirring concern among locals that they will be priced out of their homes.

In most cases, the article noted, Benioff has paid major premiums for his land. One renowned bakery in Waimea closed after receiving an offer it couldn’t refuse— “50% above the current market value,” the outlet said.

The NPR reporter noted that Benioff, who gave her extensive details about his philanthropic work, became visibly nervous when pressed for information about how he intended to use his properties. She also implied that the billionaire tried to intimidate her after he became concerned about the angle of the article.

“He called me and demanded to know the title of this piece,” the reporter recounted. “He also mentioned he knew the exact area where I was staying. Unnerved, I asked how he knew, and he said, ‘It's my job. You have a job and I have a job.’ During the interview, he brings up more personal details about me and my family.”

Benioff could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to Tuesday’s press release, the Benioffs have collectively donated over $250 million in Hawaii. The latest gift will help establish a “state-of-the-art family birthing center, intensive care unit, and neurosurgical program,” among other initiatives. It will also enhance partnerships between the Hawaiian healthcare sites and UCSF Health in California, which has received major donations from the couple.

“Our philosophy has always been to give locally and to give through experts who deeply understand local needs, and we are so pleased to have found that with the wonderful, lifesaving teams at Hilo Medical Center, Hawai'i Pacific Health and UCSF Health,” they said on Tuesday.

Following the gift, the statement continued, the Hilo Medical Center will be known as the Hilo Benioff Medical Center, while the Straub Medical Center “will become the Straub Benioff Medical Center.”

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