Last week, John Sculley gave a candid keynote at a Forbes conference about firing Steve Jobs from Apple back in 1985. Sculley spent nearly 10 minutes rehashing the story that led to Jobs’ firing.
Sculley told the crowd that it was the Apple board’s fault for creating an environment where Sculley and Jobs clashed. Sculley said that the reason why Jobs and him clashed was because of the introduction of Macintosh Office in 1985. The launch of the second-generation Mac was heavily criticized.
“Steve went into a deep depression,” stated Sculley. “Steve came to me and he said, ‘I want to drop the price of the Macintosh and I want to move the advertising, shift a large portion of it away from the Apple 2 over to the Mac.”
“I said, ‘Steve, it’s not going to make any difference. The reason the Mac is not selling has nothing to do with the price or with the advertising. If you do that, we risk throwing the company into a loss.’ And he just totally disagreed with me,” stated Jobs.
Jobs oversaw many of Apple’s failures including the Lisa and the Apple 3. Revenues from the Apple 2 was also slowing down quite a bit. Apple needed a new revenue source to get the Mac where it needed to be again. Sculley said that the board of directors gave him the power to drop Jobs as the head of the Mac division and from the company as a whole.
“What would have happened if we hadn’t have had that showdown? I did not have the breadth of experience at that time to really appreciate just how different leadership is when you are shaping an industry,” added Sculley. “As Bill Gates did or Steve Jobs did, versus when you’re a competitor in an industry, in a public company, where you don’t make mistakes because if you lose, you’re out.”