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Change the history books, John Sculley says he never fired Steve Jobs

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Change the history books, John Sculley says he never fired Steve Jobs
The history books record Steve Jobs' departure from the company he co-founded as the result of being fired by the Apple Board of Directors on behalf of the man he brought in to run the company. Now, 26 years later, it looks like the history books will have to be re-written. Brought into Apple in 1983 by Steve Jobs, John Sculley had absolutely no background in running a tech company . Sculley was CEO of Pepsi at the time, and Apple's board felt that Jobs was too young to be CEO of his own company. Jobs got Sculley to jump ship by asking him, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?

John Sculley was brought to Apple for two reasons. One was for him to keep revenue flowing into the Apple II line for about three years which would buy some time for Apple to deliver on the MacIntosh series. The second reason was that Jobs had been impressed with the way Sculley used the Pepsi Challenge to market the soft drink while playing number two to Coke's number one. It is possible that Jobs hoped for Sculley to present Apple's computers in the same way, as the upstart number two compared with the number one Microsoft/IBM combo.

At first, the pair got along well as Jobs pumped Sculley for information on how he marketed Pepsi so successfully. For five months, the pair would take turns with Sculley flying to the West Coast and Jobs flying in to the Big Apple. Sculley told Jobs that, "One of the key insights we learned (at Pepsi) was that you don’t sell the product, you sell the experience."

Around March 1985, the relationship was becoming strained. Mac sales were not doing well and Jobs wanted to cut the price, throw money into advertising the product, and reduce the emphasis of the Apple II line. Sculley disagreed. To his way of thinking, the Mac simply was just not ready and the company needed to push the Apple II. Sculley called Jobs' bluff and went to the Board of Directors about the disagreement.

The Board asked vice chairman Mike Markkula to interview key people at the company to see who was right, Sculley or Jobs. Ironically, it was almost like the Pepsi Challenge. After ten days, Markkula reported to the Board that the majority said that Sculley was right, that the Mac was not ready and Jobs was asked to step down as the leader of the MacIntosh division.

"So Steve was never actually “fired” from Apple, but he was demoted from the role of leading the Macintosh division and then he went off on sabbatical and then he eventually resigned from the company and took a number of key executives and started NeXT Computing," Sculley said. And when Jobs left for NeXT, he took key Apple personnel with him despite a promise not to, according to Sculley who added, "At the time I left, Apple was the number one selling personal computer in the world. And we had an 8.3 [percent] worldwide market share at that point. We were the most profitable personal computer company in the world."

Steve Jobs told a different story during his commencement address at Stanford University in June 2005. According to him, "We [Apple] had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out."

Both Jobs and Sculley-who admitted he knew nothing about computers when hired at Apple-later agreed that the latter was not the right man for Apple. Jobs later complained that he destroyed everything he spent ten years working for.

For his part, Sculley admitted that technology finally caught up to the vision of Steve Jobs. The work that Jobs did at NeXT was ahead of its time, according to Sculley, but it became "the core for Apple's recovery when computers were powerful enough and the cost of technology had come down enough."

Steve Jobs rejoined Apple when NeXT was purchased by the Cupertino based firm, and the rest is history. That is, until someone comes forward to change it.

source: BBC, MacObserver via AppleInsider

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posted on 14 Jan 2012, 01:02 7

1. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

It is called plausible deniability. Steve 'resigned' rather than be fired. Demoting him was tantamount to being fired. The demotion was the trigger that caused him to head for greener pastures. Fortunately for Apple, Steve returned.

Interesting how at his death, Steve's Disney holdings were worth more than his Apple holdings....

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 03:58 2

4. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

Thats because one of the companies that he started was Pixar.

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 09:47 6

6. jaydee77ca (Posts: 1; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)

Jobs didn't start Pixar, he bought it.

"Pixar began in 1979 as the Graphics Group, part of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm before it was acquired by Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs in 1986."


posted on 14 Jan 2012, 20:43 2

12. DetroitTech (Posts: 66; Member since: 02 Nov 2011)

OMG this Sculley guy is a joke compared to Jobs. Read him up on Wikipedia. He's nothing more than a traveling salesman(glorified). He's been involved with dozens of no name companies TRYING to be successful after getting fired from Apple but all he's really successful at is probably fooling people into thinking he knows what he's doing. I'm convinced he really had nothing to do with Apple's success during the time he was there and he just happened to be in a booming industry. Too bad the board of directors got duped into his "sell". Who knows what position they would be in today had they kept Jobs then. Possibly the PC and Windows might never have boomed like it did.

posted on 16 Jan 2012, 19:56

22. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

under sculley apple took a severe nose dive. by the time apple bought ol Steve's new OS that he was working on, apple was a shell of its former self. Thats why when steve took over he sold stock of the company to MS to have capital to revitalize it.

posted on 15 Jan 2012, 10:16 1

16. iKingTrust (banned) (Posts: 716; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)

remixfa just talking to talk again

posted on 16 Jan 2012, 19:43

20. cheetah2k (Posts: 1746; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)

I think he had a brain fart, and thats what came out :p

posted on 16 Jan 2012, 19:54 1

21. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

pardon me. :)

even i am wrong once and a while. :)

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 02:16

2. Penny (Posts: 1672; Member since: 04 Feb 2011)

Good read, thanks.

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 20:34 1

11. DetroitTech (Posts: 66; Member since: 02 Nov 2011)

Really good read. I'm liking all the Jobs/Apple drama that is coming out. That Scully guy looks like a corporate drone wannabe crunching numbers and playing it safe. He has no business trying to compete with the visionary that Steve Jobs was. Pepsi... pffff. Pepsi will always be second best to Coca Cola. Sell that second best experience buddy...

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 03:51 2

3. Sniggly (Posts: 7305; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)

Well that's all right. Jobs learned from that experience and never pulled the same stunt on anyone else.

Oh wait, haha. He did. When he was brought back to Apple by the head of the company at the time, he campaigned to then get the guy s**tcanned so he could be CEO again.

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 11:05

9. Hallucinator (Posts: 387; Member since: 24 May 2010)

And how did that work out for Apple?

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 05:39 2

5. tacohunter (Posts: 408; Member since: 06 Nov 2011)


"For his part, Sculley admitted that technology finally caught up to the vision of Steve Jobs. The work that Jobs did at NeXT was ahead of its time, according to Sculley, but it became "the core for Apple's recovery when computers were powerful enough and the cost of technology had come down enough.""

So that explains why the founder of the world wide web, Tim Berners Lee chose a Next computer. If you don't believe me http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee

And sort of he started Pixar and gave them the technology they needed.

Quite impressive

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 10:56 1

8. cncrim (Posts: 911; Member since: 15 Aug 2011)

I don't care how Sculley put it, demote is another way to said you are fire/less important, age have nothing to with what you can't or can do.

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 15:08

10. 530gemini (Posts: 2198; Member since: 09 Sep 2010)

Well he wasn't fired literally. But demoting him was a more subtle way of firing him. They won't fire him because he's a co-founder of Apple. But they knew that Steve was not the kind who would settle for less than what he thought he deserved, and he had too much pride to accept a demotion, and rightfully so. But all that matters is, in the end, Steve succeeded and proved them all wrong.

posted on 14 Jan 2012, 23:50 1

13. Stuntman (Posts: 839; Member since: 01 Aug 2011)

It seemed that Sculley one way or another caused Jobs to leave the company. If I end up causing someone to be in a position that he didn't like and eventually leave, it's worse than firing him. I pretty much wasted his time and on top of that, didn't give him severance.

posted on 15 Jan 2012, 10:05

14. roscuthiii (Posts: 2246; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

Sculley just doesn't want to be remembered anymore as the moron who chased off a guy as beloved as Steve Jobs.

posted on 15 Jan 2012, 10:07

15. roscuthiii (Posts: 2246; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)

He could have "clarified" history long ago... oh, except that Steve was still around then to refute Sculley's claim.

posted on 16 Jan 2012, 17:08

19. downphoenix (Posts: 3165; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)

We all know Jobs was egotistical, so this doesnt surprise me.

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