Today in Apple history: John Sculley takes over as Apple CEO


Former Apple CEO John Sculley talks at Web Summit 2015 in Dublin, Ireland.
John Sculley goes from pushing Pepsi to running Apple.
Photo: Web Summit/Flickr CC

April 8: Today in Apple history: John Sculley takes over as Apple CEO April 8, 1983: John Sculley, former president of PepsiCo, takes charge as Apple’s third CEO.

Despite a total lack of experience selling tech products, Sculley is lured to Apple by Steve Jobs himself. The Apple co-founder famously pitched the Pepsi exec with the line, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

John Sculley becomes Apple’s third CEO

Sculley had just turned 44 years old when he took over as Apple CEO from Mike Markkula, who had been running the company since 1981.

To persuade Sculley to leave his $500,000-a-year job at Pepsi, Apple agreed to pay him $1 million per year, half as salary and half as a bonus. Sculley additionally received a $1 million signing bonus, a $1 million golden parachute clause in his contract, 350,000 AAPL shares, and money to buy a house in California equivalent to his Connecticut home.

John Sculley and Steve Jobs hatch a plan for Apple

The plan was that Sculley and Jobs, who was then Apple’s chairman, would run the company as near-equals. Jobs would work on the software end. And Sculley would use his marketing expertise to grow Apple even larger.

Apple’s board of directors hoped Sculley would help Apple compete against IBM, which launched its IBM Personal Computer two years before his hiring.

John Sculley at Pepsi

While at Pepsi, Sculley took the fight to competing soda company Coca-Cola with innovative marketing strategies like the Pepsi Challenge. He would try something similar with 1084’s “Test Drive a Macintosh” campaign at Apple. Sculley also worked to transform Pepsi into a lifestyle brand with the Pepsi Generation ad campaign.

Sculley officially started work at Apple in May 1983, a month after Cupertino named him CEO.

Steve Jobs loses out in Apple power struggle

Ultimately, Sculley and Jobs ran into problems working together. After an internal struggle, Sculley convinced Apple’s board of directors to strip Jobs of his operating power within the company.

As a result, Jobs left Apple in 1985. He went on to found NeXT and acquire a majority interest in Pixar. Tech history would have been very different had Apple’s board opted to make Jobs CEO in 1983.

Were you an Apple fan in 1983? What do you remember about John Sculley’s reign as Apple’s chief executive? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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