How Steve Jobs Was Fired From Apple

An incredible but true story of how a company fired its creator, went to the brink of extinction, hired him back, and is now worth a market value of more than two trillion dollars.

quote
"Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith."
Steve Jobs

An American story about how entrepreneurial spirits planted a seed for a company that grew to become the world’s most significant information technology company.

How Steve Jobs founded Apple then lost it

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded a fledgling computer company named Apple in 1977. The unique name came from Jobs returning from an apple farm when on a fruitarian diet and thought the name sounded fun and non-intimidating.

Jobs and Wozniak sold all their worthy possessions in 1976 to fund their new company and began selling printed circuit boards with the Apple name. Then, parlaying the $1,000 they raised, they started a company in 1977 that grew to become the world’s highest capitalized information technology company.

The strange path taken by Apple

The path was not easy, and there were many successes and failures along the way until Apple found its way to leading the information technology world. Jobs was the marketing visionary behind the new company, and Wozniak was the computer engineer expert behind the technological development.

Both were young and considered “risky” in the investment world, so they had to fight to get financial credence. Jobs was an energetic and charismatic leader, but investors wanted an older, more seasoned leader. Enter the Apple players to advance the company and at the same time remove the founding partner Steve Jobs from Apple.

The brilliance of invention

Steve Jobs, the marketing visionary, and Steve Wozniak, the engineering wizard, were perfect compliments to establish a computer company on a new concept. After creating some profitable products, or kits, to create a computer, they finally made a home run product, the Apple II.

In their wisdom, they created a product that encouraged the creation of new programs to run on the Apple II. This forward-looking strategy was a stroke of brilliance. Apple did not profit directly from the apps created to run on the Apple II, but it did make a vast market for ready buyers for the new system.

Enter the first CEO that is not Jobs

One of the initial investors in Apple, Mike Markkula, decided that 22-year-old Jobs and Wozniak were not ready to run a fast burgeoning company like Apple. So instead, he chose to bring in friend and experienced executive Michael Scott.

Markkula convinced his friend, Scott, Director of Manufacturing for National Semiconductor, to lead Apple because he feared the young Jobs and Wozniak were not ready to show such a dynamic company as Apple. Scott assumed the CEO position from 1977, and in 1981, Mike Markkula replaced him as CEO.

Jobs hires new hand-picked CEO

In 1983, Jobs hired John Sculley, the successful CEO of PepsiCo, with the legendary pitch asking if he wanted to sell sugared water or change the world?

Jobs secretly wanted to be CEO, but gaining a difficult-to-work reputation, the Apple Board of Directors did not think he was ready. The reign of Sculley as CEO ultimately led to Jobs’s dismissal from the company he founded, Apple.

Sculley and the tumultuous reign of Apple

In 1985, Jobs introduced the Lisa, a technical marvel for a computer with the first GUI (Graphical User Interface). A technological innovation, Lisa never produced the number of sales expected by Apple.

The follow-up product, the MacIntosh, fared much better but still could not make any sizable dent in the sales of IBM PCs. Finally, Sculley decided to reign in the influence of Jobs at Apple and removed him from the Macintosh product group.

The removal from the Macintosh group infuriated Jobs, so in 1985 he presented his case to the Board of Directors for a decision on his status. Unfortunately, the Board sided with Sculley and, based on different versions of the story, Jobs was either fired or resigned at Apple.

Sculley was the “golden boy” for a time, introducing new Apple innovations. But he began to miss sales goals, and a new, technologically advanced product, Newton MessagePad, was introduced. But, again, conceptually brilliant, functionally less so, and sales were disappointing.

Sculley also tied Apple to the PowerPC processor chip, a substantial financial burden for Apple. As a result, the competitive Intel x86 processor became much less expensive and kept the Macintosh’s cost artificially high. This wrong move cost Sculley his position, and he was dismissed as CEO of Apple in 1993.

Apple’s CEO revolving door

Mike Spindler, a long-term Apple employee, replaced Sculley as CEO. He had a three-year run as a CEO until merger talks with IBM Sun Microsystems and Phillips fell through. The Apple Board of Directors then dismissed him in 1996.

In 1996, Gil Amelio became CEO and became the next “golden boy” when he convinced the Board to purchase Steve Jobs’s new computer company, NeXT. He developed NeXT to utilize the UNIX operating system with the closest GUI interface for UNIX ever. In addition, the World Wide Web founder developed the internet on a NeXT computer.

The $429 million NeXT acquisition brought a much-needed infusion of new technology Apple badly needed, along with getting Steve Jobs back to the Apple family. Unfortunately for Amelio, bringing Jobs back to Apple was also his downfall.

Steve Jobs and the CEO’s sleight of hand

With the acquisition of NeXT, Jobs finally became a power player again at Apple. He still had aspirations of becoming CEO and created a masterful yet devious plan to unseat Amelio. Job secretly and anonymously sold 1.5 million shares of Apple in one transaction.

This single, huge transaction caused Apple’s stock to dip to a 12-year low and made Amelio’s reign as CEO tenuous. Jobs convinced the Board on July 4th weekend in 1997 to remove Amelio as CEO for poor performance and seat him as interim CEO. Amelio eventually resigned and left Apple.

Jobs shakes up the Apple board then makes peace

By August, Jobs was already shaking things up at Apple, replacing the Board of Directors. He then makes one of his most controversial yet beneficial moves, making peace with Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Gates made a live-stream video appearance at the 1997 Macworld conference to a lukewarm reception. He announced Microsoft investing $150 million in Apple to boos but was a much-needed shot in the arm for Apple.

Jobs had returned to Apple with a new, easier-to-work-with attitude, a fresh infusion of capital from Microsoft, and a vision to guide Apple to unprecedented success.

Jobs becomes permanent Apple CEO

1998 was a banner year for Steve Jobs and Apple. First, the hugely successful iMac was introduced, and Jobs was named permanent Apple CEO, even though he was still highly engaged at Pixar. The self-contained iMac was a tremendous hit for Apple and brought much badly needed success and a significant revenue stream.

That same year, the Board removed the interim term and made Jobs the permanent Apple CEO. Jobs remained with Apple until he died in 2011.

Steve Jobs and Apple innovations

The entrepreneurial spirit and vision of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created what would become the world’s biggest company with a market valuation estimated in 2021 at 2.4 trillion.

The marketing visionary Steve Jobs and an engineer to design a more effective computer platform, Steve Wozniak, led to many Apple innovations.

A quick timeline of the technological revolutions and successes for Apple:

  • 1976 (Apple I) - An affordable yet powerful computer engineered by Wozniak and marketed by Jobs for the everyday user.
  • 1977 (Apple II) - First plug-and-play computer Wozniak designed targeted the home market for everyday users.
  • 1983 (Lisa) - Not a particular product for Apple, but the Lisa user-friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface) became mainstream.
  • 1983 (Macintosh) - The Apple computer was a hit by bringing the GUI interface to the masses.
  • 1985 (Desktop Publishing) - Before Jobs left Apple, he introduced LaserWriter and Desktop Publishing. The desktop publishing industry today is based upon the original ideas of Apple.
  • 1988 (NeXT and Mac OS X) - The rapid explosion of new Apple products was partly because of Jobs' NeXT operating system. After Apple bought NeXT, all new development had some versions of the Unix-based NeXT OS (Operating System) under the hood. This very stable and easy-to-program Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) permitted the rapid development of many successful products, including iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
  • 1998 (iMac) - The stylish iMac brought easy access to the internet and introduced the USB drive to become a significant player for mainstream computer consumerism. It was a massive hit for Apple that may have saved the company when Jobs introduced it.
  • 2001 (iPod) - The Apple iconic music player started the digital music revolution and brought portable digital devices more mainstream.
  • 2007 (iPhone) - With the new innovative touch interface, the iPhone began the entire industry for productive mobility devices.
  • 2010 (iPad) - Based on the iPhone design, Jobs introduced the revolutionary iPad with a touch-screen interface similar to the iPhone. The iPad is a larger and more powerful mobile digital device than the iPhone and ushered in mobile computing devices not previously available.

Steve Jobs remained loyal to Apple until he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at 56 on October 5, 2011. Jobs' entrepreneurial spirit led to many successes and some failures for Apple.

quote
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Steve Jobs

However, his legacy will remain forever to have the vision to start a company, lose it, and then come back and direct the company until Apple became one of the most successful companies in the world.


About the Author
James has over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. As a founder, he led startup teams as well as million-dollar companies. He has recently turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass his knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments regarding the content of this post, please send us a message via the contact page.
Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same, but we will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us keep going!
Copyright © 2021 Melbado