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Sculley: CEO role at Apple was 'big mistake'

updated 04:55 pm EDT, Thu October 14, 2010

Apple goal was to mass-market Macs

John Sculley -- once the CEO of Apple between 1983 to 1993 -- now admits that his hiring at the company was a "big mistake," according to a Cult of Mac interview. Formerly the president of Pepsi, Sculley was lured over to Apple because Steve Jobs was thought to be too young to be a CEO, and also because the company's board of directors hoped marketing success at Pepsi could be parlayed into mass-marketing computers. Jobs and Sculley were supposed to "work as partners," the latter notes, with their responsibilities split between technical issues and marketing.

Problems are said to have existed from the beginning. Sculley came in without any knowledge of computers, and the power division was lopsided. "[Jobs] was chairman of the board, the largest shareholder, and he ran the Macintosh division, so he was above me and below me," says Sculley.

"It was a little bit of a fašade," he adds. "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 ultimately grew Apple sales from $800 million to a high of $8 billion, but was forced out when both profits and stocks plummeted.

Events began to unwind when Jobs was exiled from Apple in 1986. Sculley remarks that he "still didn't know very much about computers" at the time, and that while he was trying to fix the company, he resorted to Jobs' ideas for lack of his own. "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," says Sculley.

Although the pair are no longer in touch, Sculley insists that Jobs is continuing to abide by old principles. These include an emphasis on beautiful design, the customer experience and avoiding focus groups, as well as qualities like perfectionism, vision and minimalism. In terms of corporate structure Jobs is said to prefer small companies with extremely skilled workers, while also tending towards micromanagement and treating people and products as part of an overall system, such as the iPod infrastructure.






by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. NeXTLoop

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +34

    Takes a big man...

    To admit what Sculley has. Gotta respect the man for that.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    When did

    Marketing director and CEO become synonymous/cease to be synonymous?

  1. sibeale1

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +4

    Big mistake?

    Nah, was just poor timing in a normal business cycle. Not.

  1. thebiggfrogg

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    Re: NeXTLoop

    Agree. It isn't easy to admit to failure especially in full public view. Props to Sculley for recognizing the mistake. Umm, Michael Spindler, next?

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