or Connect
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Sculley: It was a "big mistake" I was ever hired as Apple's CEO
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

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

post #1 of 136
Thread Starter 
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 instead.

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 fa├žade," 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 philosophy.

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 Im not looking for any publicity or have any ax to grind, he said.
post #2 of 136
You don't Ever ! want to get on Steve's Shit List !!!

.... you are there for Life !!
post #3 of 136
Sounds like a pretty good assessment of the situation. Probably what Steve J. would have told you also - but others would have found it hard to believe. Not so hard to believe with his track record with Pixar, bring Apple back from deaths door and even turning Next into a profitable deal. I am glad that Sculley got over it - probably wasn't to difficult if he held any of the stock/options he was given.

The other thing to look at is of course "what have they done lately" or since the parting. Steve went on to become one of the most successful business men ever - what was it that Sculley does now?
post #4 of 136
That is a surprisingly open and frank assessment of oneself from Sculley. Kudos to him. I'd be extremely curious to see someone interview Steve and ask him about this article
post #5 of 136
Pirates of Silicon Valley II: The Battle of Capt John Sculley and Capt Steve Jobs.
When a company stops chasing profit and start chasing the betterment of their products, services, workforce, and customers, that will be the most valuable company in the world.
Reply
When a company stops chasing profit and start chasing the betterment of their products, services, workforce, and customers, that will be the most valuable company in the world.
Reply
post #6 of 136
The article is a bit misleading, Steve Jobs is the one who recruited Sculley and convinced him to leave Pepsi and join apple. "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to change the world."
post #7 of 136
I've read exactly the same phrase (translated into German) in a Mac/Apple history printed in a German Apple magazine (I think; may have been somewhere else, though) a year ago or so. He must have fallen in love with his frankness and apparently repeats it in interviews.
Regardless, it's a rare confession.
post #8 of 136
Inner childhood jobs just got pissed...
post #9 of 136
I guess he's looking for a pat on the back or something for saying that.
post #10 of 136
Steve was WRONG. Pepsi is made with high fructose corn syrup, not sugar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alandail View Post

The article is a bit misleading, Steve Jobs is the one who recruited Sculley and convinced him to leave Pepsi and join apple. "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to change the world."
post #11 of 136
So he shouldn't be "still mad"? If Jobs was so great back then, why did you betray him in the first place? Perhaps because you were tired of being the "facade" of a young brat that continuously kicked your arse in an humiliating way? And you are the one who "doesn't have an ax to grind"? You kid, surely. Why then the continuous interviews that you have made about the subject over the years, and the lack of them with Jobs? Yes, he may still be mad at you (he wouldn't be human if he wasn't, for crying out loud), but it seems that you are the one who doesn't like how you are going down on history: as Apple's greatest management blunder. Sorry pal, you had the shot and you blew it, now live your millionaire retirement up and fucking leave us alone.
post #12 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by SSquirrel View Post

That is a surprisingly open and frank assessment of oneself from Sculley. Kudos to him. I'd be extremely curious to see someone interview Steve and ask him about this article

Agreed, I never expected him to be as frank or dispassionate as this. It's really a rare thing in big business (and everywhere else).

Quote:
Originally Posted by alandail View Post

The article is a bit misleading, Steve Jobs is the one who recruited Sculley

It's not misleading. It doesn't matter who recruited him, this is just Sculley admitting he was a bad choice. Steve Jobs also acknowledged a long time ago that it was a bad choice.
post #13 of 136
Now this is the kind of guy Microsoft needs to replace Ballmer with if they don't want to continue their slow but inexorable slide into irrelevancy.
post #14 of 136
Wow! John Sculley is a real man. It is sad that the Apple board did not do their home work so that Jobs and Sculley could have worked together as Jobs works with his current team. It is great to see that someone can keep his mouth shut all these years and have such clear insight into the situation. Good for you John Sculley. I hope John and Steve can have coffee one of these days. It may be that Jobs is a better man today because of his non Apple years and the company is better today because of that growth.
post #15 of 136
Apple did create the Newton when he was CEO.

Although not a success, it does give Apple the bragging right for creating the first ever tablet/PDA.
post #16 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

Steve was WRONG. Pepsi is made with high fructose corn syrup, not sugar.

At the time it still may have been made with sugar, very close though.
post #17 of 136
I am wondering what's John's carrier since he left apple.

I have no sympathy for people who make billions out of being average ass kissers.

So the question to John should be, ok, he knew nothing about computers, did he know that much about soda drinks either?

"In May 1987, Sculley was named Silicon Valley's top-paid executive, with an annual salary of US$2.2M."

Another interesting fact was that Sculley was married to Donald M. Kendall's stepdaughter. (After having two children, the couple later divorced, and both remarried.) Donald Kendall was the CEO and Chairman of PepsiCo from 1971 to 1986. (Kendal was Pepsi Cos CEO, Sculley joined pepsi in 1967 as a "trainee" after his degree in... Architecture.
post #18 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by alandail View Post

The article is a bit misleading, Steve Jobs is the one who recruited Sculley and convinced him to leave Pepsi and join apple. "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to change the world."

It's misleading because in summarizing this brief "interview" (more like a statement than an interview, really), the key line was omitted: "The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO."

Taken in context, it becomes clearer why Sculley thought it was a mistake. The board's action set up an immediate conflict conflict between himself and Steve, which could only be resolved with one of them leaving. The board of directors, which was one of Apple's key limitations in those days, had wimped out. They knew the company needed "adult supervision" but weren't prepared to make the hard choices between the founder and someone who knew how to run a business. Between the lines we can read that Steve, as the chairman of the board, was a big part of the problem.
Please don't be insane.
Reply
Please don't be insane.
Reply
post #19 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by franksmith22 View Post

At the time it still may have been made with sugar, very close though.

it doesn't matter either way, fructose is just another type of sugar.
post #20 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

Steve was WRONG. Pepsi is made with high fructose corn syrup, not sugar.

Sugar is a broad term. High fructose corn syrup is a specific type of sugar.
post #21 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by ihxo View Post

Apple did create the Newton when [Sculley] was CEO.

I've not read the interview, but the AI summary suggests Sculley attributes all of the "design ideas"--presumably even the Newton--to Jobs. Folklore has it that the Newton was Sculley's baby, though. The Newton was one of the first projects to get the axe upon Jobs' return. If it wasn't Sculley's idea, I could understand it would stick in his craw.
post #22 of 136
Why would anyone hire someone from Pepsi or Coca-cola is beyond me. That stuff sells itself.
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
"Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example" Mark Twain
"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
Reply
post #23 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

Now this is the kind of guy Microsoft needs to replace Ballmer with if they don't want to continue their slow but inexorable slide into irrelevancy.

In other words, they need a guy what will just get it over with and drive straight off of the cliff? Maybe not a bad idea.
post #24 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris_CA View Post

Sugar is a broad term. High fructose corn syrup is a specific type of sugar.

Sugar is the common term for sucrose, a disaccharide of glucose and fructose. Corn syrup is largely composed of the monosaccharide fructose. The monosaccharide is more easily/rapidly metabolized, because the disaccharide bond of sucrose impedes its metabolization. This is why fructose in a soft drink produces more of a "rush" than does sucrose.

In chemistry, "sugar" may refer to any carbohydrate or carbohydrate moiety.
post #25 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by BuffyzDead View Post

You don't Ever ! want to get on Steve's Shit List !!!

.... you are there for Life !!

All is well that ends well...

It is Better to light a Candle than to curse the Darkness...

In a way, Steve Jobs' ousting "sent him into the wilderness for 40 days and nights" to prepare him for the days which are now upon us, and gave him perspective born of introspection and hindsight that he is putting to prolific use today.

If only I could live my life again like Steve has so fortunately been able to; avoid the pitfalls and grasp the use-it-or-lose-it opportunities as they come hurtling by, to hit the ground running, knowing just what needs to be done and when to do it.

You couldn't make this story up if you tried!
post #26 of 136
I think Sculley has been fairly candid about this for quite some time, actually. And more credit to him for that.

However, if Jobs really still does have an axe to grind about this business, he needs to take a deep breath and do some honest, detached introspection. Because if he had NOT been fired at Apple:

1) He never would have bought, and nurtured, Pixar. (Think about the vast ramifications of THAT!)

2) He would never have cranked up NeXt, which means he would not have had the freedom to start a whole new OS from the ground-up, with no concern for supporting legacy systems. (NeXt, of course, eventually morphed into OSX, which eventually evolved into iOS. What happens if THAT doesn't happen?)

3) Possibly most important of all: If Apple had not come within a hairsbreath of death, Jobs would never have had the freedom to radically restructure the company the way he did.

In other words, Stevearino... it's all part of the plan. So stop scheming, already. You can't control what's past, and it's a good thing, too. Let go, and be grateful things happened exactly the way they did!
post #27 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Snitch View Post

I think Sculley has been fairly candid about this for quite some time, actually. And more credit to him for that.

However, if Jobs really still does have an axe to grind about this business, he needs to take a deep breath and do some honest, detached introspection. Because if he had NOT been fired at Apple:

1) He never would have bought, and nurtured, Pixar. (Think about the vast ramifications of THAT!)

2) He would never have cranked up NeXt, which means he would not have had the freedom to start a whole new OS from the ground-up, with no concern for supporting legacy systems. (NeXt, of course, eventually morphed into OSX, which eventually evolved into iOS. What happens if THAT doesn't happen?)

3) Possibly most important of all: If Apple had not come within a hairsbreath of death, Jobs would never have had the freedom to radically restructure the company the way he did.

In other words, Stevearino... it's all part of the plan. So stop scheming, already. You can't control what's past, and it's a good thing, too. Let go, and be grateful things happened exactly the way they did!

Love this post. A++ +++++
post #28 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

Steve was WRONG. Pepsi is made with high fructose corn syrup, not sugar.

Steve was RIGHT. Fructose is one of the simple sugars. Whether it comes from processed corn syrup or sugar cane, it IS sugar.

Thompson
post #29 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Why would anyone hire someone from Pepsi or Coca-cola is beyond me. That stuff sells itself.

No, it doesn't, not by a longshot! Coke's marketing and advertising are legendary.
Cat: the other white meat
Reply
Cat: the other white meat
Reply
post #30 of 136
Not to detract from his current successes, but back in the day Jobs WAS too young (immature) to run Apple. Anyone who remembers him from the NeXT days knows the sorts of impetuous decisions and burnt bridges that came with Jobs' ego.

In a way, I don't think Jobs' and Apple's current success would be entirely possible if he hadn't left to get some perspective and business experience with NeXT. Part of Microsoft's problem is they are so familiar and dependent upon Windows that they simply cannot think outside of that box. Jobs, on the other hand, spent a decade without Apple's steady income and Mac OS (ie. Classic) frame of mind. So when he returned he had the benefit of a clean slate, and defty managed the transition from Classic to OS X.

Another thing Jobs learned when returning to Apple: Don't depend on anyone for anything. He knows that there is still a dependency upon Microsoft and Adobe for their big software platforms, but in the meantime Apple has slowly been creating their own alternatives. The same applies to technologies, which is why, when starting fresh with iOS, Apple cut Flash loose and created a platform that they control 100%.

I used to hate Sculley back in the day (I worked as a contractor at Apple while he was still CEO) but can forgive him now with the passing of years. I think his conciliatory words are genuine - he's no longer in the tech game and has nothing to prove.


Edit: Others have said pretty much the same thing while I was composing this.

And can the pedants please let the sugar remarks go?
post #31 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Snitch View Post

I think Sculley has been fairly candid about this for quite some time, actually. And more credit to him for that.

However, if Jobs really still does have an axe to grind about this business, he needs to take a deep breath and do some honest, detached introspection. Because if he had NOT been fired at Apple:

1) He never would have bought, and nurtured, Pixar. (Think about the vast ramifications of THAT!)

2) He would never have cranked up NeXt, which means he would not have had the freedom to start a whole new OS from the ground-up, with no concern for supporting legacy systems. (NeXt, of course, eventually morphed into OSX, which eventually evolved into iOS. What happens if THAT doesn't happen?)

3) Possibly most important of all: If Apple had not come within a hairsbreath of death, Jobs would never have had the freedom to radically restructure the company the way he did.

In other words, Stevearino... it's all part of the plan. So stop scheming, already. You can't control what's past, and it's a good thing, too. Let go, and be grateful things happened exactly the way they did!

I totally agree with this. I think Jobs needed the experiences he had after leaving Apple. It appears to me that one of the most important lessons he learned (and it took a LONG time to learn it) was not to release products before the technology is ready. He has recently said that the iPad was put on a shelf for several years, waiting for the time to be right to release it. That's exactly what should have been done with the Mac. Apple should have continued to update the Apple II for several years and then in the early 90s they should have released a Macintosh based on a pre-emptive multitasking Unixy OS with a 32 bit processor.
post #32 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

It's misleading because in summarizing this brief "interview" (more like a statement than an interview, really), the key line was omitted: "The reason why I said it was a mistake to have hired me as CEO was Steve always wanted to be CEO."

Taken in context, it becomes clearer why Sculley thought it was a mistake. The board's action set up an immediate conflict conflict between himself and Steve, which could only be resolved with one of them leaving. The board of directors, which was one of Apple's key limitations in those days, had wimped out. They knew the company needed "adult supervision" but weren't prepared to make the hard choices between the founder and someone who knew how to run a business. Between the lines we can read that Steve, as the chairman of the board, was a big part of the problem.

Excellent post. Sculley is not admitting to anything here. More than anything he is laying the blame elsewhere and in parts to SJ himself.
post #33 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Philotech View Post

...
Regardless, it's a rare confession.

Indeed, rare ... and the frankness is welcome. Even if he has already made statements in earlier interviews to this effect, I think it's a breath of fresh air. Would love to see some ousted politicians be so forthcoming with their failures ... And I doubt that he sought out Leander at Cult of Mac just to expound on the trouble his CE(g)O-mania got him into, probably the other way around, but the article doesn't say either way.
post #34 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQB View Post

Originally Posted by Kolchak
Now this is the kind of guy Microsoft needs to replace Ballmer with if they don't want to continue their slow but inexorable slide into irrelevancy.

Originally Posted by GQB
In other words, they need a guy what will just get it over with and drive straight off of the cliff? Maybe not a bad idea.

Behind all the energetic bluster and hyperactive enthusiasm, Ballmer is actually doing a great and thankless job of steering a massive Jumbo-jet into a graceful, slow glide-down from a 1000-pound behemoth to a more average-sized 500-pound gorilla.

When you consider Microsoft's staggering market capitalization of the year 2001 or so, around $540 billion (gadzooks!!), where on Earth would anyone expect the company to go from there?

With the massive war-chest available in its kitty, no-one can reasonably rule out Redmond from a comeback of Apple-esque proportions.

Perhaps a return of Gates himself; now that would set up a show of epic proportions. Back to the Future?
post #35 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splinemodel View Post

No, it doesn't, not by a longshot! Coke's marketing and advertising are legendary.

Exactly. It's easy to believe that a product "sells itself" when you've already been sold on it. In any event, Sculley wasn't brought on at Apple to be a marketer, he was there to run the company, to bring order to the big hairy ball of chaos that was Apple at that time.
Please don't be insane.
Reply
Please don't be insane.
Reply
post #36 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by myapplelove View Post

Excellent post. Sculley is not admitting to anything here. More than anything he is laying the blame elsewhere and in parts to SJ himself.

But only if you read past the headline.
Please don't be insane.
Reply
Please don't be insane.
Reply
post #37 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Snitch View Post

I think Sculley has been fairly candid about this for quite some time, actually. And more credit to him for that.

However, if Jobs really still does have an axe to grind about this business, he needs to take a deep breath and do some honest, detached introspection. Because if he had NOT been fired at Apple:

1) He never would have bought, and nurtured, Pixar. (Think about the vast ramifications of THAT!)

2) He would never have cranked up NeXt, which means he would not have had the freedom to start a whole new OS from the ground-up, with no concern for supporting legacy systems. (NeXt, of course, eventually morphed into OSX, which eventually evolved into iOS. What happens if THAT doesn't happen?)

3) Possibly most important of all: If Apple had not come within a hairsbreath of death, Jobs would never have had the freedom to radically restructure the company the way he did.

In other words, Stevearino... it's all part of the plan. So stop scheming, already. You can't control what's past, and it's a good thing, too. Let go, and be grateful things happened exactly the way they did!

I agree that this is a good post, but I think that Steve Jobs has already acknowledged this "part of the plan" idea, most famously during his "connecting the dots" commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. I don't think we need to preach to Steve about it anymore. If he wants to be pissed at Sculley - if he even really is - he might have deeper personal reasons. Maybe he doesn't like Sculley.

Thompson
post #38 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel001 View Post

Agreed, I never expected him to be as frank or dispassionate as this. It's really a rare thing in big business (and everywhere else).


It's not misleading. It doesn't matter who recruited him, this is just Sculley admitting he was a bad choice. Steve Jobs also acknowledged a long time ago that it was a bad choice.

Sculley was not Jobs' first choice. That distinction goes to Don Estridge, IBM vice president of manufacturing, the man who brought to market the IBM PC, a product that shattered all sales records and won over the marketplace.

In 1983, Steve Jobs tried to recruit Don Estridge as president of Apple Computer. Estridge turned Jobs down, and was killed two years later in a commercial plane crash, while flying for IBM. Had he accepted the Apple position, both Estridge and Apple would have experienced a dramatically different future.

Sculley's decade long Apple legacy involved kicking Jobs out of Apple, jacking up the price of the original Macintosh by 25% to accommodate advertising, licensing away the Mac's IP to Microsoft for Windows, and green lighting all sorts of unprofitable fiascos that put middle managers in control of the company rather than engineers.

No doubt an engineer such as Estridge would have made different decisions for the company than Sculley did.
post #39 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by LuisDias View Post

So he shouldn't be "still mad"? If Jobs was so great back then, why did you betray him in the first place? Perhaps because you were tired of being the "facade" of a young brat that continuously kicked your arse in an humiliating way? And you are the one who "doesn't have an ax to grind"? You kid, surely. Why then the continuous interviews that you have made about the subject over the years, and the lack of them with Jobs? Yes, he may still be mad at you (he wouldn't be human if he wasn't, for crying out loud), but it seems that you are the one who doesn't like how you are going down on history: as Apple's greatest management blunder. Sorry pal, you had the shot and you blew it, now live your millionaire retirement up and fucking leave us alone.

you showed him dude! way to go!
post #40 of 136
Hindsight is 20/20. I worked at Apple from '87 to '92. John Scully was generally well liked for his marketing skills and calm temperament. He lacked technical vision, and relied on John Luis Gasse' who turned out to be quite an ego-maniac. As I recall, Scully left (was pushed out) around '90-'91 and Michael Spindler was elevated from COO to CEO. Spindler was a disaster! I can't really comment on whether hiring Scully or firing Jobs was the right thing to do. Things were much more fluid, in those days, and Apple was riding high until Microsoft launched Windows 3.x. It was pretty much downhill afterwords, until Apple acquired NeXT and Jobs returned to Apple. My own opinion is that things happen for a reason and Apple would not be the company it is today without the miscues...
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: General Discussion
AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Sculley: It was a "big mistake" I was ever hired as Apple's CEO