Abdulfattah ‘John’ Jandali is the biological father of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Every so often Jandali would send an e-mail to Steve Jobs saying “Happy birthday” or “I hope your health is improving.”
Jandali said he did receive short responses back from Jobs. The last e-mail he received from Jobs was six weeks before he passed away and it simply said “Thank you.” Jandali is 80 years old and is the general manager of the Boomtown casino outside Reno, Nevada. Jandali runs a staff of about 450 casino employees.
Jandali said that he cannot take credit for the success of his children. Jandali is also the biological father of novelist Mona Simpson. Jobs was put up for adoption as a baby and he had no contact with him since then. Jandali also has a shaky relationship with Simpson.
Jandali kept quiet about his biological children because he feared being perceived as someone that was seeking to ride their coattails.
When Jobs’ health started to decline, Jandali agreed to be interviewed even though he said his story was not interesting enough for attention. Jandali learned about Jobs’ death when a stranger called his death to offer condolences. Jandali quickly hung up the phone and said that he felt sadness.
Jandali learned around 2005 that Jobs’ was his biological son. He said he does not remember how he heard, but said that the news was a major shock.
“I don’t know why I emailed,” said Jandali in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I guess because I felt bad when I heard about the health situation. He had his life and I had my life, and we were not in contact. If I talked to him, I don’t know what I would have said to him.”
Jandali said that he read the speech at the Stanford University commencement in 2005. In his speech, Jobs said “My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student? She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates.”
Jobs was born in San Francisco in 1955 and was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs. Paul was a high-school dropout that became a machinist and Clara never graduated from college. However they agreed that they would send Steve to college. Jobs acknowledged having a relationship with his birth mother and sister, but he did not discuss Jandali.
Jandali was born and raised in Homs, Syria. Jandali’s family owned villages and land outside the city where workers had wheat and cotton fields. Jandali is the youngest of three brothers and he planned on becoming a diplomat in Syria. In 1952, Jandali came to the U.S. to get his PhD in political science at the University of Wisconsin. Jandali emphasized how Middle Eastern countries could emerge from colonialism. In 1956, Jandali was awarded his doctorate with a dissertation that was entitled “United Nations Efforts to Set Standards for National Independence.”
When Jandali was at the University of Wisconsin, he became involved with a graduate student in speech therapy from Green Bay named Joanne Schieble (later named Joanne Simpson). She became pregnant in 1954, but her father didn’t approve of their relationship.
Simpson went to San Francisco for a few months to get away while pregnant. Eventually she put her son up for adoption. Joanne Simpson returned to Madison, Wisconsin shortly after. When Joanne’s father passed away, her and Jandali got married and moved to Syria. As the government was in transition, Jandali did not get a chance to become a diplomat. He managed an oil refinery instead. Simpson became unhappy in Syria and moved back to Green Bay where she gave birth to Mona.
After a few years, Jandali and Simpson got divorced. Simpson remarried and Jandali stayed out of Mona’s life as she was growing up. As Jobs grew up, he contacted Joanne and Mona Simpson and created a relationship with them.
In 1993, Mona Simpson wrote a novel called “The Lost Father.” The protagonist in this novel searched for a father that she never knew. Jandali read the book and compares himself to that father.
“The way I look at it, it’s her way of venting, and it’s OK,” said Jandali in an interview. “She’s entitled to that. It’s the price to pay for not being there for your child when you’re a father. Even though I don’t see her, I love her dearly.”
Jandali started teaching at the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno and ended up opening his own restaurant. He would sometimes treat faculty members at that restaurant. He later sold that restaurant before joining a major casino in Las Vegas. He became the head of Boomtown in 1999.
When Boomtown started losing customers to Indian casinos closer to their homes, Jandali added a lobster buffet to the casino. This ended up drawing thousands of customers on the weekend. “People thought I was crazy when I introduced that,” said Jandali. “They thought we would lose money. But it attracted a lot of people.”
Jandali buys new iPhones and iPads every time a new one is introduced. “They produce the best,” said Jandali. “Steve Jobs was a genius.”