Power Players: John Sculley

March 20, 1997

The Site's
with Sculley

Before Gil Amelio and Michael Spindler, there was John Sculley. He took Apple from $600 million a year to more than $8 billion. Here's what he's doing now.

Before Amelio, before Spindler, John Sculley was steering the course at Apple. Hired by legendary founder Steve Jobs, who convinced him to leave Pepsi by asking Sculley if he wanted to "sell sugar water" for the rest of his life, Sculley became one of the leading figures in Apple mythology by heading the company from 1983 to 1993. Ironically, Sculley later ousted Jobs in a power struggle and then positioned himself as a technology visionary.

But Sculley was a visionary with a few blind spots. It was during his tenure that the disastrous decision was made to not license the Macintosh operating system to clone makers. And Sculley was a champion for the Newton hand-held computer, which has thus far been a financial black hole and is currently the subject of sell-off rumors. After a series of well-publicized product shortages and planning blunders, by 1993 Apple's board of directors was convinced it was time for a change and Sculley's days in Apple's big chair were over.

But the final record doesn't look bad: During his decade at Apple, the company's annual revenues rose from $600 million to $8 billion. True to his reputation as an unparalleled mass marketer, Sculley built Apple into a household brand.

After leaving Cupertino, Sculley became chairman of Spectrum Information Technologies, which he soon left, alleging he'd been bamboozled along with other investors. Since then he's split his time between new ventures to improve photographs on the Web and to bolster education through technology. He's written a best-selling book on his adventures in the marketing and high tech business, and he's served on an international human rights committee. But he's stayed in the tech game, serving now as the chairman of Live Picture.

As for Apple, Steve Jobs is back and Sculley is watching from the sidelines. He now believes Apple has lost the operating system war and should consider splitting itself into at least two companies. But he still uses Macs and thinks there's at least the possibility of a comeback, both for him and his former company.

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