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After Benioff’s big deal, Time is bringing back the bar cart

Time employees get ready to toast their new owners; Fortune and Sports Illustrated hope they get to celebrate, too.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff
Justin Sullivan / Getty
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

What do you do when you find out your new boss is a tech gazillionaire?

Have a drink! At work!

That’s the plan at Time magazine, which plans to break out its fabled bar cart tomorrow to celebrate the news that Salesforce billionaire Marc Benioff plans to buy the magazine from Meredith Corp. for a surprising $190 million.

The bar cart, for people who haven’t spent time thinking about the “Mad Men” era of magazines, is just what it sounds like: A traveling booze distribution apparatus (or, eventually, a human being), which used to make weekly stops at Time magazine, back when Time magazine was one of the world’s most important publications.

Now the bar cart generally gets referenced as a sign of magazine culture’s decline. But Time editors still bring it back for celebrations.

And this week’s sale qualifies as a celebration, according to Ed Felsenthal, Time’s editor in chief. “We do it occasionally,” Felsenthal said. “In the old days, there were shrimp.”

Okay. So the bar cart isn’t what it used to be. But Time magazine employees are giddy about the sale anyway.

Even if they’re not sure what Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne plan on doing with the property — and even if Marc Benioff seemed set on buying Fortune magazine until very recently — it is much better than other scenarios they’d envisioned, like working for the Koch brothers, or David Pecker (yes, that David Pecker).

That good cheer is tangible throughout the other Time Inc. properties temporary owner Meredith Corp. is still trying to sell. The general vibe: People who work at Fortune/Money and Sports Illustrated think that deals for their own magazines are coming soon, and Benioff’s money gives them confidence/hope that they won’t be fire sales.

At Sports Illustrated, staffers are thinking about what life might be like under Junior Bridgeman, a former NBA star who has made a fortune in fast food and now runs a big Coke distributor.

Fortune employees, who had been preparing to work for Benioff, have a hard time articulating who they think will buy them, but Fortune president Alan Murray has been expressing confidence that he’s excited about the yet-to-be-named buyer. After years of dispiriting news, you can’t begrudge them some optimism.

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