Sculley: It was a "big mistake" I was ever hired as Apple's CEOFormer 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 Im not looking for any publicity or have any ax to grind, he said.