After years of silence, former Apple CEO John Sculley has started talking about Steve Jobs.
Sculley ran Apple for 10 years, steering it through a difficult financial time. But he is commonly known as the guy that fired Steve Jobs from Apple.
That’s not exactly the way it happened, Sculley said on Thursday in Bali, Indonesia at the annual Forbes Global CEO Conference.
“I was hired to be Steve’s partner,” he said. “I had no interest in taking over his company.”
When Sculley was hired, Apple was at a crossroads. It had “failed” with Lisa and with the Apple 3 and needed cash to develop the Mac, which wasn’t projected to be profitable for years, he said.
He and Jobs were “great” personal friends before they clashed. But “when the Macintosh Office, the next version of the Mac introduced in 1985, failed, Steve went into a deep depression over it. And it really wasn’t his fault. It was all about Moore’s Law … the reality was the Mac Office wasn’t powerful enough. It just couldn’t do very much. It was being called a toy and ridiculed in the market,” Sculley said.
Jobs wanted to drop its price and do more advertising. Sculley didn’t think those things would make the product successful but would cause the company to lose money.
Jobs wouldn’t back down so Sculley took the argument to the board. The board assigned the third co founder of Apple, Mike Markkula, to research both sides and Markkula agreed with Sculley.
Then board told Jobs to stop running the Macintosh division.
“They didn’t fire him. He was still the chairman and largest shareholder,” Sculley said.
(Sculley didn’t say this but by stripping him of his responsibilities, Jobs felt betrayed and left Apple, Jobs later said.)
“I really blame the board,” Sculley said. “I think the board understood Apple at the time and understood Steve. I think there could have been a solution to keep me and Steve working together” he said.
Sculley says he also came to understand how “different” it is to lead a company when you are creating an industry, like Jobs and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, versus when you are just another competitor in an established industry.
It’s really interesting to hear Sculley talk about those days and his part in it. Here’s the full video: