John Sculley: I wish I told Steve Jobs ‘This is your company, let’s figure out how you can come back and be CEO’

“In 1983, when John Sculley was 43, he had a choice. He could remain head of Pepsi-Cola Co. and jockey with several other executives to be named successor to then-PepsiCo Chief Executive Donald Kendall in a typical corporate executive shootout. Or, as Apple’s Steve Jobs put it to him then, he could give up selling ‘sugar water’ and ‘come with me and change the world,'” Janet Guyon reports for FINS Technology. “FINS talked to Sculley, 71, about the time in his career he calls “the experience of a lifetime,” his meteoric rise at Pepsi, the satisfaction of taking risks and what he’s up to today.”

Some of Sculley’s comments:

I appreciate more today that Apple was never just a business to Steve. Apple is Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs is Apple. That was entirely different from anything I had experienced coming out of Pepsi.

Steve was a guy willing to create his own rules and a genius at creating his own industry. I had never met anyone like that before. I only have more and more admiration for Steve as time goes on.

I wish Steve and I hadn’t had a falling out. I wish I had gone back to Steve and said, “This is your company, let’s figure out how you can come back and be CEO.” I wish I had thought of that. But you can’t change history.

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Bozo.


[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Ellis D.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Steve Jobs steps down the first time: The 1985 press coverage – August 26, 2011
John Sculley: Apple’s big mistake was hiring me as CEO – October 14, 2010
Sculley: Uh, maybe I shouldn’t have fired Steve Jobs – June 7, 2010


  1. A bit harsh, MDN. I have no problem when you shower Balmer with such epithets. Scully, however, no longer deserves that, as he has clearly and ambiguously expressed regret numerous times about those events.

    The mistake back then was, to quite some extent, Steve’s for misjudging Scully’s fit for service. Not everyone is ready to accept such radical thinking as Steve had at the time. Scully has subsequently clearly seen the consequences of his mistakes and openly admits them. He deserves some slack today.

    1. I am with Predrag on this one. MDN likes to slam Sculley, but he has been gracious in his praise of Steve Jobs and has made it clear that mistakes were made. It is also worth noting that Sculley wasn’t alone in the mistake-making; the Apple board blessed the moves.

      Also, to be fair, Sculley had some ideas of his own. The Knowledge Navigator concept (and the video he had made) was very forward thinking for its day. And Newton was definitely Sculley’s baby – a product that laid the tech basis for many things that followed, including iPhone and iPad.

      1. The Newton was the first mass produced handheld device to use ARM architecture chips to power its operating system. Arguably without the Newton there would be no ARM chip. The true value of the ARM chip was that the first iPods were powered by it. Without ARM there might not have been a chip small enough and power sipping enough to allow the iPod to be powered for more than 5 hours between recharges

        1. Well that is easy for those of us in the “US” to believe but ARM development traces back to the early 80s and the “Archimedes” put out by Acorn in the UK and other parts of the world were really the first mass produced machines using ARM processors.

          Apple’s interest in ARM did push Acorn to form ARM Ltd and pursue selling the architecture on its own instead of Acorn looking at it as strictly an in house developed processor for their own products.

          I agree with you somewhat, ARM might not have been licensed out if Apple and VLSI were not interested in the architecture.

        2. Not “to use”, but to create ARM architecture.

          ARM exists today solely because of Apple’s whim, who decided it needs to downgrade desktop RISC CPU of Acorn to mobile level.

          The same is with PowerPC — Apple chose to downgrade workstation CPU Power to desktop level.

          Both architectures are not sold crazy amounts per year.

          1. The ARM610 that Apple used in the Newton was not a downgrade of the ARM2 (and ARM3) that Acorn had developed for the desktop. It was an upgrade – significantly faster and more capable than it’s predecessors.

            Had Apple not taken an interest in ARM it most likely would not have got such wide attention. It may well have stayed as part of Acorn until Acorn’s eventual demise, whereupon it would have likely ended up getting bought in the resultant fire-sale (Acorn’s DSP chip efforts ended up at Broadcom for example). There’s every chance that the ARM architecture would have died.

            1. I mean ‘downgrade’ in the energy consumption and cost, not necessary in performance. Original Acorn RISC CPU was made years before Apple came to co-create ARM and do the mobile chip.

      1. I noted that too, but I’m sure he meant unambiguous. And I agree with Predrag. Sculley has made it clear that he was the wrong one in that episode, and that only time and his own growth have enabled him to see the genius of Steve Jobs. At least he is man enough for that. The reality is that who we are is greatly shaped by the road we walk. Jobs became a better businessman and more successful because of his ouster. Ironically, he owes a bit of gratitude to Sculley for pushing him out of Apple to be a part of Pixar and Next. Without those experiences, I doubt Jobs would have been prepared to resurrect Apple to its present glory.

    2. Agreed. As much as I like most MDN takes for their lack of compromise, Sculley has very publicly expressed his regret on this mistake, so there is no more need to throw shit at him. Save the shit to throw at others, there are enough douchebags out there…

    3. This question is likely unanswerable, but if Jobs had remained at AAPL, would he have become what he has, and accomplished what he has, today?

      That set back and time away, and time spent in new industries, may have given him the type of seasoning, experience and maturation that he wouldn’t have gotten having remained at AAPL.

      Also — notice how he seems to have become exceptionally good at picking people post-Sculley?

      I read where Jobs considered his time in the wilderness as one of the most creative times of his life (he may have to reevaluate that in light of recent iPhone/iPad experience).

      1. Yow …… Agree 110% …. If Jobs did not have the lumps and bumps along the way, he would not of had as much experience …..

        Genius or not, experience is the Master of Teachers ……

      2. And we wouldn’t have Pixar, which besides making great movies, pushed the state of animation to significant new heights and really brought back animated entertainment to something much more than Cartoon Network shows.

      3. IIRC, In his Stanford commencement speech, Jobs explains that while devestating at the time, being pushed out of Apple was one of the most beneficial events in his life.

        We’ll never know of course, but if Jobs had stayed on at Apple, I don’t think the Mac would have moved forward as quickly as it did. He fought color monitors and expansion slots, and multi-button mice. On the good side, I doubt we would have had the plethora of models that was dragging the company down in the 90’s.

    4. 1. There was nothing super radical in Jobs initiatives back in 1985. For example, one of his ideas was to lower Macintosh margins to 40% (yes, the margin was higher) and expand the production.

      2. Scully is wrong about his wishes he would act differently back then. Only because of his actions Jobs got Next, Pixar, his wife and his children. At the same times, technology matured and he was able to push Apple further after he returned there. Even if Jobs would stay at Apple, he would definitely found the way to move the technology further, however, scientific limitations would not allow him to do iPod, iPhone, iPad any earlier than they came in actual history.

    5. Sculley is the prime example of the American executive selection process and why American enterprise as it mostly exists today is doomed. As long as marketeers, accountants and lawyers make it to the top, there is no hope. We need more engineers, scientists, operations guys and designers at the top. The staff guys need to stay on the sidelines.

      1. You almost got it right. Just keep the operation type guys at the top. Engineers, designers, community organizers, “staff” guys belong where they do their best which is not necessarily at the operation level.

        Lot of people dont consider Jobs an “engineer” or “designer”. He ceratinly had a vision (because he was a user of technology) and he certainly knew his shortcomings, hence, he was able to surround himself with the right people.

  2. Steve I’m sorry…
    If only I thought of teaming up again or bringIng you back I could be richer today and famous..

    And I make my name all over those sweet newtons and sue all you because the newton was the first….

    The bozo regrets.

  3. I remember that era, when the VC people would proclaim to the inventor-geniuses “That’ll be enough of that wild ass stuff. Time for some adult supervision, kids.” Then some MBA with a beemer would be shipped in to serve as hood ornament, and things would deteriorate fast.

    The CEO of the software company I worked for was trying so hard to learn tech talk, he would fall for anything we said. One day during a conference call, he pointed to me and said “And am I right that the Golden Master is a go?” and I couldn’t resist saying “Yes, shippable but still Beta” on which the CEO proclaimed “Excellent! We have a Golden Master Beta!”

    Fortunately, the engineers that roared with laughter at that would later take back their company, as Steve Jobs did. It still thrives to this day.

    1. HAHA that is an awesome story.

      “Yes, Shippable but still beta” – pure development gold my friend.

      My favorite memory was when our senior manager walked into our development group and said to our lead dev “So this new version is almost done and I hear it won’t ‘suck’ like the last one! bravo!” – to which our lead dev replied “Yes its almost done, but it still sucks, it just does not suck as bad”

      It was no shock when these clowns went under to me.

    2. That’s the problem with most of these “trained” CEOs: They don’t understand that they don’t need to understand the specific technologies their company produces. What they need to do in these situations is MANAGE the company and let the talented people do their jobs.

      That’s what makes Steve Jobs unique: He can manage a company very efficiently, but he also can infuse it with his vision and direction.

  4. I am so glad John Scully did not act on these new wishes. Steve Jobs needed to spent time in the hard cold wilderness (out of Apple)!

    Steve learned important lessons that is now part of the hart and soul of Apple Computer.

    1. I completely agree. If Steve had not be axed from Apple – there would be no NeXT. Without NeXT, there is no OS in Apple’s then-future. Could you imagine if BeOS had been the OS that had won out in 1996? Think of all the things that are based on the technology out of that single corporate transaction: OS X, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Xcode, and who know’s what else.

      He needed this “time in the wild” to learn from his previous mistakes. The Steve that came back in ’96-’97 was not the Steve that got his ass handed to him in 1988 – and Apple and technology is all the better for it.

      1. The question that pesters me is what would His Steveness done when Be agreed to be bought by Apple? NeXT was prized by developers I knew then, but it wasn’t selling well. He must have had a Plan B, but I’ve never heard of his talking about it. He wouldn’t have been satisfied to be successful with Pixar. Maybe the new bio will answer that question.

        1. MY GUESS – as a PLAN B for STEVE

          Pixar being the one best customer of NeXT – (at Lucas Skywalker Ranch) – Steve buys Pixar and learns to leave the team to build and grow its own geekness-ways – the succeed and paves the way as a model for Apple.

        2. Speaking of Pixar, what would have become of them if Steve hadn’t purchased Pixar from Lucasfilm? Meesa tinking dey be workin’ on “The Amazing Adventures of Jar-Jar Binks Episode VII” right about now.

          So, thanks to Sculley, the world benefited not only from Steve’s education “in the wild” that helped him create Apple 2.0 but also by preventing George Lucas from ruining Pixar. Not too shabby.

    1. It was a learning experience for all- both Jobs and Sculley. How can one learn without making mistakes? I would not call Sculley a bozo at this point- that would imply holding a grudge eternally and an unshakable rigidity.

      “Be like water, my friend”- Bruce Lee

  5. No one can guess what would have happened if Steve was not ousted. One thing that you can be sure, Steve would not have let Apple crown jewels fall into the hands of Bill Gates. Sculley doing the dumbest thing on the planet by scheming to kick SJ deserves full blame for that.

  6. Lesson from MDN: Do not ever, ever say anything that doubts that Steve Jobs is omnipotent. If you do, you will be forever cast into the abyss of MDN’s world – whether anyone ever notices or not, you will be cast there.

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