John Sculley: Forcing Steve Jobs out of Apple was a mistake

“John Sculley was hired from PepsiCo by the iconic but temperamental Steve Jobs with a legendary pitch, ‘Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or, do you want to come with me and change the world?’ Sculley went on to join Apple, but ended up becoming part of a corporate legend by firing Jobs from the company he had founded,” Pankaj Doval reports for TNN.

“As he gears up to start a new venture focused around India for selling low-end mobile phones (not competing with Apple’s top-notch devices), Sculley — now 75 — tells TOI that he regrets the decision taken in 1985 by the Apple board of directors to move Jobs out of the company,” Doval reports. “‘I think, in hindsight, for the founder to leave was a mistake and I was a part of that. But, Steve in 1985 was not the same as the Steve in 1997. By the time he came back, he was a much more matured and experienced executive, while back in the eighties, he was still a young learning executive,’ [Sculley said].”

“[Sculley] still feels that some way would have been found to have them both work for the company and this could have been facilitated by Apple’s board then,” Doval reports. “‘I think there could have been a way, in hindsight, where Steve and I did not need to have a confrontation, and we could have worked it out. And, perhaps the board could have played a bigger role in that. But you can’t change history.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Bozo.

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Failed Apple CEO John Sculley: If I were Samsung, I would tap Ron Johnson – April 10, 2013
If John Sculley says Apple must do this then Apple probably shouldn’t – January 17, 2013
Former Apple CEO Sculley gives his take on Steve Jobs – January 13, 2012
John Sculley: I wish I told Steve Jobs ‘This is your company, let’s figure out how you can come back and be CEO’ – Septemeber 13, 2011
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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

58 Comments

  1. Well, as everyone has said, yes and no.

    Yes, you guys were morons, but no, Apple and SJ would likely not be at the heights they are now had SJ not had his “walk in the wilderness” and Apple run into the ground.

    I only wish maybe SJ had given traditional medicine more faith in retrospect.

  2. I never want to wish anyone any bad luck, but in this case, I cannot say that I’m hoping Sculley’s new Indian company is a runaway success. 🙂

    I believe that due to Sculley’s specific actions at Apple, American workers as a whole have had to put up with way more Windows BS then we should have ever had to.

  3. If SJ remained at Apple…blah..blah..blah.. seems SJ needed to find a new version of himself…away from Apple. The result speaks for itself. Sometimes you have to lose what is seemingly important so you can find what really is important.

  4. No, it was a mistake to hire John Sculley. Trying to fill the CEO position of a visionary company with the CEO of a commodity company whose product guarantees diabetes if you drink to a day was the big mistake!

  5. Steve Jobs himself, in 2005, had this to say about it:

    “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

  6. I never ‘knew’ Jobs but I ‘miss’ him as I use Apple products everyday and have done so for years. The use of Apple products have significantly affected my life (like saving my butt as an art director).

    Jobs not only changed Apple but the world, today everyone serious about their work is influenced by Jobs philosophies. He has elevated the making of consumer products (and perhaps to work in general) and given sense of “worthiness” to their creators. His ‘merging of art and science’ has influenced all kinds of products (even vacuum cleaners have become stylish!) and his idea that the commercial world should strive for the betterment of mankind through great products and not just for the sake of making money (the money will come if you do good work) have affected many (Jobs in the end really believed that, he took a $1 a year salary since his return in 96-97 and never got stock options since 2003),

    The world lost a great asset with his passing.

  7. He should be admitting that he regrets bending over and allowing Gates and his butt buddies to extract Apple Crown Jewels from his orifice. He was in charge and didn’t protect the very soul of then Max. Instead he allowed the evil duo steal a portion of the Mac Soul.

  8. An interesting bit of revisionist history.

    First, neither Sculley nor the board ousted Jobs. Jobs was running his projects financially into the ground (as well as spending huge sums on idiotic things at Apple that were not directly part of his projects) and thus the board stripped him of those projects and any other power in the company. Jobs got pissed off and quit, selling all but one share of Apple stock. In reality Jobs had more power at Apple the day before he left than he did when he came back as an adviser to Amelio — and we all know how Jobs turned that position around.

    During the late 80s and even 90/91 Sculley was hailed by virtually everyone as doing exactly what Apple needed. Apple was at its all time highest market share (across both Mac and Apple ][ lines) at over 19%. Apple had great sales figures and was, for a while, the darling of Wall Street.

    Did Sculley do lots and lots of stupid things that eventually led to Apple’s Dark Days? Absolutely — not the least of which were
    — caving in to Gates and licensing the source code to the Mac’s System Software to Microsoft (this was Sculley’s biggest mistake probably worse than all others combined)
    — the eventual cacophony of dozens upon dozens of Mac models that virtually no one understood or could differentiate among them
    — the release of the MessagePad with what was effectively a beta of its handwriting interpreting interface (which became a bigger media joke than even Apple’s Maps fiasco)
    — strong support for Blue (System 7) and not realizing it should have been just a short, interim step to Pink.
    — the extremely lukewarm support for Pink (which effectively killed it) (Apple had what was effectively an Alpha version of Pink running as far back as 1990).
    — and many more…

    However, Sculley did not oust Jobs. Jobs did that to himself. Jobs could have stayed and maybe the Dark Days would not have happened though that is extremely unlikely. It just was not in him back then. Jobs’ walk in the wilderness was necessary to create the Jobs that took over in 1997.

    1. Odd how we remember it differently. I remember sitting in the audience of the FY89 worldwide sales meeting and John Sculley proclaimed this the worst year in Apple’s history. He said the same thing the next year, too.

    2. @Shadowshelf, I agree with everything you wrote, but want to make a minor correction:

      During the late 80s and even 90/91 Sculley was hailed by virtually everyone as doing exactly what Apple needed. Apple was at its all time highest market share (across both Mac and Apple ][ lines) at over 19%.

      Apple’s peak personal computer market share (compiled Mac/Apple II) was in 1984 at 22%. It went down from there until 1991:
      1984-22%
      1985-14%
      1986-12%
      1987-11%
      1988-7%
      1989-6%
      1990-6%
      1991-12%
      1992-12%

      Still, the point you made is entirely valid.

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