Not many people remember the name John Sculley, but those who do likely remember him as the CEO of Apple who worked with the Board of Directors to get Steve Jobs fired from the company he founded.
The story has been told from a variety of perspectives since that fateful event in 1985, but Sculley himself has stayed quite mum on the controversy – until now. At the Forbes Global CEO conference in Bali, Indonesia, Sculley was asked about the event and went on to give his most detailed description to date.
Steve didn’t at that age know much about running companies. Apple had failed with Lisa, had failed with the Apple 3. The Apple 2 was near end of life, the company needed cash flow to fund development of the Macintosh.
Jobs was running a million miles an hour on the new Macintosh platform, but was indifferent to just about every other part of the company. Sculley took Jobs to task with the Board of Directors to see who was making better decisions for the company. Board member Mike Markkula, the often forgotten third founder of Apple, was tasked with making the decision and clearly saw that Jobs and his Macintosh plan were too perilous for the company.
I feel most badly, though, [because] after 10 years, I was at the company, I wanted to go back to New York where I was from. Why I didn’t go to Steve Jobs and say, ‘Steve, let’s figure out how you can come back and lead your company.’ I didn’t do that, it was a terrible mistake on my part. I can’t figure out why I didn’t have the wisdom to do that. But I didn’t. And as life has it, shortly after that, I was fired.
Jobs was pushed aside and Apple survived, just barely. Sculley meted out 10 years of mediocre performance from the company before he finally found himself out in the street as well.
He was not a great executive back in those early days. The great Steve Jobs that we know today as maybe the world’s greatest CEO, certainly of our era, he learned a lot in those years in the wilderness.
He certainly did. Apple scuttled through two additional CEO’s before buying Job’s company NEXT for it’s revolutionary Next Step operating system. It took just less than a year for Job’s to orchestrate the firing of then CEO Gil Amelio, paving his way to take over his company again.
Watch John Sculley recount his entire story in the video here.
Fox Tip: Everyone needs the wilderness as part of their story.