Gil Amelio resigned at Apple CEO 21 years ago, paving the way for Steve Jobs' ascension as...

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in General Discussion edited July 10
In July of 1997, five months after Apple bought NeXT and bought him back into the fold, Steve Jobs became Apple's de facto interim CEO, kicking off the most successful comeback by an executive in the history of American business.

Gil Amelio and Steve Jobs in 1997


The departure and return of Steve Jobs from Apple is as central to Apple history as just about anything else. It's been pored over in numerous books, two different feature films and more than one documentary. It got ugly at times, but things happening the way they did helped make the many Apple triumphs of the last two decades possible.

A Separation

The story is well-known: Jobs cofounded Apple in 1976, although he was never the company's CEO during his first stint with the company. Apple was led by a succession of chief executives, starting with Michael Scott and Mike Markkula, until Jobs recruited John Sculley from PepsiCo in 1983.

Jobs and Sculley soon clashed, and following a failed coup, Jobs was demoted, leading to his departure in 1985.

Steve Jobs went on to found NeXT Computer in 1988, as Apple's struggles continued throughout the early to mid-1990s. In December of 1996, Apple agreed to acquire NeXT for about $400 million, with the intention of basing its next operating system around NeXT's NeXTStep.

With the NeXT deal, Jobs returned to Apple as an "adviser," reporting directly to CEO Gil Amelio, who had been named CEO of Apple in early 1996.

Jobs and Amelio


Amelio, the son of Italian immigrants, holds a Ph.D. in physics and had worked as a researcher. He was CEO of National Semiconductor and served on Apple's board for two years before he took over the CEO chair.

"This is a complementary arrangement, and the pieces fit together better than any other alternative we looked at, and it will launch a new round of technology," Amelio said at the time of the Apple/NeXT deal announcement.

Jobs once told a story in a Q&A about his decision to return.

"When I was trying to decide whether to come back to Apple or not I struggled. I talked to a lot of people and got a lot of opinions," Jobs said in 2001, as reported by Apple intern-turned-blogger Jonathan Berger. "And then there I was, late one night, struggling with this and I called up a friend of mine at 2am. I said, should I come back, should I not?' and the friend replied, Steve, look. I don't give a f*ck about Apple. Just make up your mind' and hung up. And it was in that moment that I realized I truly cared about Apple."

It was speculated for years who the friend on the phone had been, but Jobs admitted to biographer Walter Isaacson that it was Intel's Andy Grove.

A bad few months

Jobs' return to the company was followed by a series of bad events for Apple. Macworld, held in San Francisco shortly after the announcement of the NeXT acquisition, was a disaster, plagued by a malfunctioning TelePrompter and Amelio forgetting to introduce guest of honor Muhammad Ali.

In February, Apple announced its worst quarter ever, leading to the layoff of 3,000 employees. Meanwhile, various employees either from NeXT or otherwise loyal to Jobs were promoted throughout the company.

Steve Jobs and Gil Amelio


There were also a pair of blows struck against Amelio that spring: A failed hostile takeover attempt by Oracle's Larry Ellison, and the selling of 1.5 million shares of Apple stock. It later came to light that Jobs was supportive of Ellison's move, and that it was Jobs who had sold that stock.

Exit Amelio

Throughout all of this, Amelio lost the confidence of his board, and over the July 4 holiday, Apple Chairman Ed Woolard informed Amelio that he was out as CEO. Officially he resigned, on July 9, 1997.

Amelio was CEO of Apple for exactly 500 days; he later wrote a memoir, published in 1999, called On the Firing Line: My 500 Days at Apple. Amelio was one of multiple Apple CEOs to leave involuntarily, but was also the last to do so.

Following Amelio's departure, Jobs was not immediately named CEO or even interim CEO; in fact, he reportedly asked not to be considered for the top job at the time and was even put in charge of finding a permanent replacement.

But it soon became clear that Jobs was in charge, and in September of 1997, he was officially named interim CEO. He kept the interim tag for more than two years, finally introducing himself as permanent CEO at Macworld Expo in 2000.

Actor Kevin Dunn played Amelio in "Jobs," the Ashton Kutcher Steve Jobs movie; there was no Amelio character in the Michael Fassbender film.

Return, and rise

Steve Jobs, during his Apple return


Once in charge, Jobs moved quickly. He cancelled such products released during his exile, such as the Newton and Cyberdog. That August, he announced a shocking deal with Microsoft, in which Bill Gates' company agreed to invest $150 million in Apple.

Jonny Ive was promoted to Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, helping bring about an unprecedented run of innovation and success. The iMac arrived in 1998, the iPod and Apple Store in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, the App Store in 2008 and the iPad in 2010.

Apple, which had been in significant financial trouble at the time of Amelio's departure, soon became hugely profitable, and is now the most valuable company in the world.

Jobs remained CEO until he resigned for health reasons in August of 2011 and named Tim Cook his successor. Jobs passed away two months later, on Oct. 5, 2011.

The legacy

No, not everything Steve Jobs did at Apple, even during his second run, was an unalloyed success. There were scandals and controversies, from a bonus-backdating case to questions about the company's environmental record to

While Jobs may have used some underhanded tactics in an effort to get back on top of the company he founded, there's no question that his ascension over Gil Amelio was the best thing for the survival, and off-the-charts success, of Apple.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    mac_dogmac_dog Posts: 565member
    Er...resigned in shame for having run the company into the ground. It just made the return of Steve that much greater. 
  • Reply 2 of 15
    tylersdadtylersdad Posts: 127member
    You know it's a slow news day when something that happened 21 years ago is considered news...
  • Reply 3 of 15
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,218administrator
    tylersdad said:
    You know it's a slow news day when something that happened 21 years ago is considered news...
    It isn't a slow news day.

    However, you may note some date similarities, given that its a history piece and we published it today.
    StrangeDaysAnilu_777demitodanantksundaramGeorgeBMacchristopher126king editor the gratejony0stanthemanxamax
  • Reply 4 of 15
    demitoddemitod Posts: 5member
    Great read, a story I enjoy reading every where it’s told.
    Solichristopher126jony0stantheman
  • Reply 5 of 15
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,513member
    Remember it like it was yesterday.  That's when I started thinking ... mmm... AAPL might worth looking into now.
    king editor the gratexamax
  • Reply 6 of 15
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 138member
    What a wild ride it was, even for the passive observer such as myself.  It was a constant delight to see all the Apple and Jobs naysayers proven wrong time and again.  Nowadays the ‘CW’ rarely questions Apple because of its dominance.  Yes, they still make mistakes (hello MacPro) but the Apple death knell count hasn’t been tracked by anyone in years.  Kind of boring really.

    For me Elon Musk has taken up the mantle of that person who’s going to show all the unimaginative boobs of the world just how wrong they are.  (And no, I would never advocate that Musk take over as CEO of Apple.)
  • Reply 7 of 15
    mac_dog said:
    Er...resigned in shame for having run the company into the ground. It just made the return of Steve that much greater. 
    You could look at it that way. I see that Gil knew that Apple's future was with Steve and deep down he knew his days would be numbered if Steve got involved with day to day operations. 

    Just look at at the video of him introducing Steve's return.  

    Gil probably knew for Apple to survive, Steve had to take over. It's not like no one knew Steve's passion for Apple. Plus Gil reunited Jobs and Woz on the stage. 

    Gil saved Apple by not resisting the change. 
    I think most other CEOs would say no to Jobs being involved in anything other than a transaction to purchase his software. 
    JWSCSoliAnilu_777GeorgeBMacjony0stanthemanxamax
  • Reply 8 of 15
    Gil Amelio ran Compaq competently, though he could never figure out what to do with the Digital Equipment Corp. acquisition, but he also fostered or at least sustained a corporate culture where clever engineers and inspired designers kept coming up with ideas that looked like the iMac, &c, and got laughed out of the managers' offices because they "knew" their customers wanted beige boxes.
    Anilu_777GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 15
    crabbycrabby Posts: 32member
    turned out to be an EXCELLENT time to buy Apple stock....
  • Reply 10 of 15
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,172member
    mac_dog said:
    Er...resigned in shame for having run the company into the ground. It just made the return of Steve that much greater. 
    You could look at it that way. I see that Gil knew that Apple's future was with Steve and deep down he knew his days would be numbered if Steve got involved with day to day operations. 

    Just look at at the video of him introducing Steve's return.  

    Gil probably knew for Apple to survive, Steve had to take over. It's not like no one knew Steve's passion for Apple. Plus Gil reunited Jobs and Woz on the stage. 

    Gil saved Apple by not resisting the change. 
    I think most other CEOs would say no to Jobs being involved in anything other than a transaction to purchase his software. 
    Amelio gets a lot of credit from me for handing the reigns back to Jobs.
    demitodhammeroftruthGeorgeBMacjony0xamax
  • Reply 11 of 15
    asciiascii Posts: 5,813member

    Gil Amelio and Steve Jobs in 1997

    Photo caption: "Why no Gilbert, I have no designs on your job, just look at my causal clothes!"
    GeorgeBMacking editor the grate
  • Reply 12 of 15
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,287member
    Speaking of a string of CEO departures let us not forget Michael Spindler, the "Diesel", who according to Apple lore was found hiding under his desk during a particularly stressful time at Apple.
  • Reply 13 of 15
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 2,731member
    THE most telling thing about Jobs is this:
    ""When I was trying to decide whether to come back to Apple or not I struggled. I talked to a lot of people and got a lot of opinions," Jobs said in 2001, as reported by Apple intern-turned-blogger Jonathan Berger. "And then there I was, late one night, struggling with this and I called up a friend of mine at 2am. I said, should I come back, should I not?' and the friend replied, Steve, look. I don't give a f*ck about Apple. Just make up your mind' and hung up. And it was in that moment that I realized I truly cared about Apple."

    Steve put Apple's well being ahead of his own.  He had comfortable positions at both Pixar and NeXT.  But he put his own security and well being on the line by returning to a failing Apple -- not because it was a good gamble but because he loved Apple.

    That's the commitment, loyalty and dedication that makes the difference.  It's also a great example for other's to follow:   The great ones have a purpose beyond their own pleasure and well being.
    xamax
  • Reply 14 of 15
    horvatichorvatic Posts: 97member
    Emilio took advantage of being CEO. While regular employees were already taking a 10% cut in pay he took a $650,000.00 sign on bonus.
  • Reply 15 of 15
    xamaxxamax Posts: 121member
    mac_dog said:
    Er...resigned in shame for having run the company into the ground. It just made the return of Steve that much greater. 
    You could look at it that way. I see that Gil knew that Apple's future was with Steve and deep down he knew his days would be numbered if Steve got involved with day to day operations. 

    Just look at at the video of him introducing Steve's return.  

    Gil probably knew for Apple to survive, Steve had to take over. It's not like no one knew Steve's passion for Apple. Plus Gil reunited Jobs and Woz on the stage. 

    Gil saved Apple by not resisting the change. 
    I think most other CEOs would say no to Jobs being involved in anything other than a transaction to purchase his software. 
    Back in the day I was so happy about Amelio I couldn’t believe what he was doing. And I truly believe he martyred himself for the sake of Apple. He’s an unsung hero to me, whether or not he was fully conscious of what he was doing or guided by other worldly beings. What Apple is today is a direct consequence of this ‘old rooster’. $650.000 sign on bonus wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, Jobs was still heartaching and didn’t render Gil Amelio his due credit. I honor him. Thanks from my heart, Gil!
    Soli
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