Corporate Shockers: You did *#$@% to Steve Jobs?
Steve Jobs recruited John Sculley to run Apple Computers (AAPL) in 1983 because the board wanted someone more experienced than a snot-nosed 28 year old founder barking orders at Apple employees. Sculley was a seasoned 15 year veteran executive from Pepsi Co. (PEP) whom was persuaded by Jobs to take over the company and join him in changing the world.
Things were all nifty until Sculley went all Brutus on Jobs and decided to fire him with board assistance in 1985 when it was believed that Jobs was poaching executives from Apple to join Jobs’s successor company, Next Computers.
The verdict may not completely be out on Sculley’s effectiveness on running Apple, but he deserves a PhD in the “Obvious Arts.” When asked if the coordinated decision (between Sculley and the Board) to fire Steve Jobs more than 25 years ago was correct, this is what Sculley had to say:
“In hindsight, I think they [board] made the wrong choice. They should have chosen Steve…we should have figured out a way to work with it [Job’s talent].”
Over his term at Apple, Sculley increased sales from $800 million to $8 billion. Good performance, but apparently not good enough, because Sculley was axed in 1993 and a window was opened for Jobs to return as Apple’s puppet-master four years later. The rest is history and AAPL stock went from about $10 per share when Sculley left all the way up to $316.65 today. Not too shabby.
In another shocker, after hiring Sculley and then getting fired by Sculley, Jobs said Sculley won’t talk to him. I can’t understand why a company founder would hold a grudge toward a hand-picked former employee who spearheaded a lynching against his boss? Well, I guess karma has a way of evening things out in the long run – redemption was found with Jobs’s climbing the Silicon Valley mountain to create the $300 billion consumer technology behemoth. I’m sure you don’t have to cry a river for John Sculley, but if he can’t control his own tears, he can always use his hundred dollar bills as tissue surrogates.
What makes Jobs’s decline and subsequent triumph even more unbelievable are the hugs and kisses Steve Jobs owes Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates. If not for a $150 million lifeline offered by Gates to Steve Jobs in August 1997, while Apple was on its financial deathbed, we may not have ever experienced the iPod, iPhone, iPad, or future overhyped consumer gadget (OK, I admit it, I have succumbed to the hype myself). I’m guessing if Bill were given another chance, he would have passed on that Apple investment and we would be stuck paying for $4,000 computers and $1,000 Microsoft Office upgrades.
As a result of these corporate shockers, several lessons can be learned. Number one: If you are hired by a company founder, be careful about firing that boss if put in that position – you could potentially be jeopardizing the creation of hundreds of billions of dollars in future value. Number two: If you are unable to successfully negotiate lesson number one, then just find someone to lend you $150 million. History has taught us lessons based on past events ranging from Prohibition to Watergate, and from Nazi Germany to Tiger Woods’s indiscretions. John Sculley also learned lessons from Apple’s corporate shockers, and so can you.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
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