Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has been mysteriously buying huge swaths of land in Hawaii—now we know why

Billionaire Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has deep-rooted connections to Hawaii, and he’s been suspiciously quiet about them for the most part. He has long maintained a beachside mansion in Waimea, and recently got caught buying up swaths of land in Hawaii, which was all revealed in an NPR exposé. He’s also infamous for referring to his Salesforce employees as “ohana,” or the Hawaiian concept of family. 

Now he’s announced a major donation—one of the largest in the state’s history—to three hospitals on the island. The $150 million gift announced Tuesday from Benioff and his wife, Lynne, brings the couple’s total philanthropy in Hawaii to more than $250 million, “including recent gifts of 282 acres for affordable housing on the Island of Hawaii and another 158 acres owned by a separate nonprofit entity for charitable use,” according to a press release. 

Of the $150 million gift announced Tuesday, $50 million will go to the Hilo Medical Center to build out a family birthing center, intensive care unit, neurosurgical program, and behavioral health services. The remaining $100 million will go to Hawaii Pacific Health to create a health care campus at the Honolulu-based Straub Medical Center, promising to “deepen connections” between Hawaii hospitals and UCSF Health in San Francisco.

“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,” the Benioffs said in a statement. “Nothing is more important than the health of our community, and access to care for all who need it.”

But Benioff bought more than 600 acres in Hawaii since 2020 that are worth a combined $100 million, according to the NPR story. A spokesperson for the Benioffs says, however, they’ve donated much of that land.

“Marc and Lynne have donated almost 75% of the total land they’ve purchased in Hawaii over the last quarter century, and well over 90% of the land they’ve purchased since 2020,” the spokesperson told Fortune in a statement. “This includes 282 acres donated to the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation (HICDC), a non-profit developer of affordable housing, and 158 acres to a separate non-profit that holds the property for HICDC if it chooses to use it, or for other philanthropic uses if it does not.” 

Assuming the Benioffs have donated 90% of the land they’ve bought since 2020, they still personally own 60 acres in Hawaii. That’s nearly 200% of what an average homeowner in Hawaii has, according to data from Today’s Homeowner, where the average plot size is 0.23 acres.

Hawaiian housing struggles

Housing affordability in Hawaii has gotten so bad that there has been a mass exodus of natives to other U.S. cities—and Hawaiian homes cost more than twice the national average at more than $670,000, according to a University of Hawaii study.

But for the ultra-rich, like Benioff, housing costs aren’t a problem. Plus, Hawaii has the lowest property tax in the nation, meaning the wealthy can get a major tax break for buying land and properties there. Benioff saves roughly a quarter million per year for all 600 acres, previous Fortune reporting shows.

Other millionaires and billionaires have also started buying properties on Hawaii to build bunkers to retreat to in the event of an emergency, but Benioff denies that’s what he’s doing.

“I’m not a prepper,” Benioff told NPR reporter Dara Kerr. “We don’t have outsized properties. We have basically enough for ourselves.” Benioff was so bothered by Kerr’s digging that he allegedly kept tabs on her location on the island, looked into her personal life, and even contacted her CEO after her major discovery.

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