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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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 façade," 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 I?m not looking for any publicity or have any ax to grind,? he said.
«134567

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 135
    You don't Ever ! want to get on Steve's Shit List !!!



    .... you are there for Life !!
  • Reply 2 of 135
    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?
  • Reply 3 of 135
    ssquirrelssquirrel Posts: 1,196member
    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
  • Reply 4 of 135
    Pirates of Silicon Valley II: The Battle of Capt John Sculley and Capt Steve Jobs.
  • Reply 5 of 135
    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."
  • Reply 6 of 135
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 135
    ilogicilogic Posts: 298member
    Inner childhood jobs just got pissed...
  • Reply 8 of 135
    I guess he's looking for a pat on the back or something for saying that.
  • Reply 9 of 135
    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."



  • Reply 10 of 135
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 135
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 135
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 135
    lanklank Posts: 27member
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 135
    ihxoihxo Posts: 563member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 135
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 135
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 135
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 135
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 135
    chris_cachris_ca Posts: 2,543member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 135
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,041member
    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.
Sign In or Register to comment.