Sculley: It was a "big mistake" I was ever hired as Apple's CEO

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Michelle Steiner, Oct 14, 2010.


    By Josh Ong
    Published: 12:20 PM EST

    Former Apple CEO John Sculley, famous for helping force Steve Jobs from the
    company he co-founded in 1985, admitted in an interview that his hiring as
    CEO was a "big mistake" and that Jobs should have been given the job

    Sculley was recruited from his role as President of Pepsi to join Apple as
    CEO in 1983. During his tenure, he grew Apple's sales from $800 million to
    $8 billion, but also garnered criticism for his role in several
    controversial decisions, including the ousting of Jobs in 1985 and the
    transition of the Mac to the PowerPC platform. Sculley was himself forced
    out in 1993 after Apple's stock and profits suffered a sharp decline.

    In an unprecedented interview with Leander Kahney of Cult of Mac, the
    former Apple executive frankly pointed out that he "came in not knowing
    anything about computers." At the time, the board felt Jobs was too young
    to be CEO and decided to use a head hunter, said Sculley. Apple's board
    hoped Sculley, who was well-known for his marketing success at Pepsi, would
    help mass market the Mac to consumers.

    Jobs and Sculley were meant to "work as partners," with Jobs dealing with
    the technical side of the company and Sculley focusing on marketing. From
    the outset, though, the situation seemed destined for a power struggle.
    "[Jobs] was chairman of the board, the largest shareholder, and he ran the
    Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me," said Sculley.

    "It was a little bit of a façade," the former CEO continued. "My guess is
    that we never would have had the breakup if the board had done a better job
    of thinking through not just how do we get a CEO to come and join the
    company that Steve will approve of, but how do we make sure that we create
    a situation where this thing is going to be successful over time?"

    Sculley also admitted that he "still didn't know very much about computers"
    when Jobs left Apple in 1986. He first focused on fixing the company, but
    "didn't know how," deciding to continue on with Jobs' methodology and

    All of Sculley's successes during that time were Jobs' ideas before leaving
    the company, Sculley admitted. "All the design ideas were clearly Steve's.
    The one who should really be given credit for all that stuff while I was
    there is really Steve."

    During the interview, Kahney asked Sculley, who no longer has any contact
    with Jobs, what the secrets to Jobs' success have been. Sculley, who is
    impressed with how Jobs "sticks to his same first principles years later,"
    shared 11 of those principles: beautiful design; customer experience; no
    focus groups; perfectionism; vision; minimalism; hire the best; sweat the
    details; keep it small; reject bad work; perfection and systems thinker.

    Jobs is apparently "still mad he got pushed out," according to an email
    Sculley sent Kahney prior to the interview, but Sculley has moved on. "My
    Apple experience is now ancient history and I have gone on with my life and
    I¹m not looking for any publicity or have any ax to grind,² he said.
    Michelle Steiner, Oct 14, 2010
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  2. Michelle Steiner

    JF Mezei Guest

    Thanks Michelle.

    I had my timelines all wrong on this. I had not realised Sculley had
    gotten the job so early in Apple's life and that Jobs has left as early
    as 1986 (when I bought my Mac Plus)

    I also didn't realise he had stayed CEO for so long (roughly 10 years).

    How many CEOs were there between Sculley and Jobs ? I recall Gil
    d'Amelio but can't recall others.

    Between Jobs and Wozniak, wouldn't there have been over 50% ownership of
    Apple ? (and thsi control of the board). Or had Wozniak sold off its
    shares and no longer had significant voting rights ?
    JF Mezei, Oct 14, 2010
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  3. Michael Spindler was between Sculley and Amelio.
    Initially, the company's stock was owned by Woz, Jobs, and Mike Markkula,
    each owning 1/3 of the shares. However, when the company went public in
    1980, their share percentages declined a lot with all the new shares being
    sold. The initial offering was 4.6 million shares, with another 2.1
    million being offered about five months later.

    Woz never got involved with the business end of the company; he
    concentrated on engineering until his airplane crash. He then became a
    token employee. So far as I know, he's always been employee #1, with no
    break in service, even though he may not have received any salary.

    (Interesting aside, when Apple started issuing employee numbers, Jobs
    wanted #1, but Markkula, who was chairman of the board, insisted that
    because Woz invented the Apple computer, he should be employee #1. They
    finally resolved the issue by making Jobs employee #0. Aside to the aside:
    When Claris was formed, Bill Campbell (the CEO, president, and chairman of
    the board) followed that precedent by having employee #0 issued to himself.)
    Michelle Steiner, Oct 14, 2010
  4. Michelle Steiner

    Jim Gibson Guest

    Michael Spindler, June 1993 - Feb 1996
    Jim Gibson, Oct 14, 2010
  5. Oh, and I was employee #637. I forget what my Apple employee number was,
    Michelle Steiner, Oct 14, 2010
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