Today in Apple history: John Sculley bids Apple a $10 million farewell

Today in Apple history: John Sculley bids Apple a $10 million farewell


Former Apple CEO John Sculley talks at Web Summit 2015 in Dublin, Ireland.
After Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, John Sculley is Apple's most memorable CEO.
Photo: Web Summit/Flickr CC

October 15: Today in Apple history: CEO John Sculley forced out of Apple October 15, 1993: John Sculley, the CEO responsible for forcing Steve Jobs out of Apple, is forced to leave the company himself.

Following a terrible quarter, in which the company posted a 97% drop in earnings, Sculley steps down as Apple chairman. He takes $1 million in severance pay, a one-year consulting fee of $750,000, a commitment from Apple to buy his $4 million mansion and $2 million Lear jet, and $2.4 million in stock options. Total take: around $10 million.

Selling sugar water, changing the world.

Sculley joined Apple in May 1983 as its third president and CEO, following Mike Scott and Mike Markkula.

Jobs lured Sculley to the company, using one of the most famous recruitment lines in the history of business. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water or do you want a chance to change the world?” Jobs asked Sculley.

The idea initially was that Jobs, who was chairman at Apple, would run the company hand-in-hand with Sculley. However, tensions between the two meant that Jobs got forced out of Apple after attempting a boardroom coup in 1985.

Sculley’s tenure at Apple proved mixed. In terms of financials, he increased Apple’s sales from $800 million to $8 billion during his 10-year stint as CEO. During this period, the Apple II and Macintosh computers became Apple’s biggest sellers, with the latter gradually overtaking the former.

John Sculley at Apple: More hits than misses

Often unfairly maligned as more of a “numbers” CEO than a visionary, Sculley laid the groundwork for products that would pay off for Apple in the long run. Many viewed the Newton MessagePad as Sculley’s attempt at a world-changing device like the Mac. The PDA flopped upon release, but proved far ahead of its time in a number of aspects.

Sculley also commissioned an R&D project called the Knowledge Navigator, which predicted the arrival of tools like Siri and the iPad, almost down to the exact month.

On the downside, Sculley missed out on licensing the Macintosh operating system. Plus, he signed an incredibly damaging deal with Bill Gates that paved the way for Microsoft’s 1990s dominance.

John Sculley vs. Steve Jobs

Despite all his other Apple achievements, most remember Sculley as the person who kicked Jobs out of Cupertino.

After Sculley announced his departure from Apple, Michael Spindler replaced him. Sculley went on to join Spectrum Information Technologies as chairman and CEO. The Los Angeles Times said Sculley’s move from Apple to Spectrum “may have been one of the worst career moves of all time.”

Do you remember the John Sculley years at Apple? Leave your comments below.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.