updated 12:39 am EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Apple CEO will make unspecified contribution in Campbell's honor
In something of an "exit interview" with Fortune magazine, outgoing Director Bill Campbell -- who started with Apple in 1983 and has served on the Board of Directors since 1997 -- talked about the late Steve Jobs, current CEO Tim Cook, his sideline seat watching Apple go from nearly broke to the most valuable publicly-traded company in the world and other topics. He also revealed that Cook plans to make a contribution to Campbell's hometown of Homestead, Pennslyvania.
The former head football coach at Columbia University, former Xerox, Go and Apple software executive and current Chairman of Intuit has been an eyewitness to a lot of Apple history. He first came in contact with Apple when former CEO John Scully recruited him to be the Vice President of Marketing, a job Phil Schiller holds today. Campbell as eventually the CEO of the spun-off Claris Corporation and had planned to take the company public before Apple exercised its option to buy it back, he told writer Adam Lashinksy.
He left Apple for a short time, but as both neighbor and friend to Steve Jobs, he was soon recruited back. Jobs, who frequently went for neighborhood walks and often dropped by Campbell's house unannounced, offered him a spot on the board when Campbell was CEO of Intuit and Jobs and had just re-taken his CEO role at Apple.
"He came by one day, and we sat on a bench by the pool," Campbell said, "and he said, 'I'd like you to join the Apple board.' The only time I've had a rush like that was when I was asked to be a trustee of Columbia University. I said, without hesitation, 'For sure.' " Campbell ended up gaining a reputation for being resolutely loyal to Jobs when conflicts arose on the board, but also developed a strong relationship with Tim Cook, whom he praised in the press release announcing his resignation.
"Tim's done an amazing job of building bench strength within the organization. There's a whole set of new and smart people who are taking over. You're watching that company grow up." Cook also praised Campbell's service to the company, saying "Bill's contributions to Apple are immeasurable, and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude."
Campbell revealed that the day after he resigned from the Apple board, Cook called and asked if he could "make a contribution somewhere" in Campbell's honor, preferably somewhere in Campbell's hometown of Homestead. "That's the way he thinks," Campbell said. "In his warm way of saying goodbye to me he's going to do something warm for me, make a contribution to my home town." He went on to add that Cook "is a calm, thoughtful guy" who "studies things and thinks about them, makes a decision, and moves on."
Over the years, Campbell has built a reputation as a steady hand, a good sounding board (particularly to Jobs) and a "business coach" that specialized in advising executives over wings and beer at a sports bar he owns in Palo Alto. His friendship with Jobs suffered briefly when Campbell started advising Google's Eric Schmidt, shortly after Schmidt left Apple's board and began competing directly with Apple. Jobs told Campbell that "when you're helping them, you're hurting me," but Campbell said his only role was to help Google "run [its] business better."
Speaking about Jobs, Campbell had a ringside seat on both the the first tenure of Jobs as CEO and his later career outside Apple and his eventual return. He speaks of watching jobs grow into the CEO role following his exit from Apple in 1985. "I watched him when he was general manager of the Mac division and when he went off and started NeXT. I watched Steve go from being a creative entrepreneur to a guy who had to run a business."
Campbell, who served alongside Art Levinson as "co-lead directors" before there was a formal Chairman position, noted that things were less formal in the initial period following Jobs' return, and that everyone -- including Schmidt during his time on the board, and Oracle's Larry Ellison -- had what today might be called conflicts of interest by being involved in tech firms that on some level competed with Apple.
Though Campbell has rarely been popular with rank-and-file Mac users because of his long leadership of Intuit, a company that makes industry-standard financial software but regularly abandons or treats its smaller Mac audience poorly, he apparently saved his goodwill for working with Jobs, particularly during some of the most stressful moments in Apple's history. Now 74, he ended up being the longest-serving of any Apple director, now ending his association with Apple after 17 years with the board and nearly 30 years total involvement with Apple. Cook announced that BlackRock financial director Sue Wagner would be replacing Campbell on the BoD.