The History of Apple CEOs


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The news that Steve Jobs has resigned as Apple’s CEO has the Internet in flames. Though Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple and crafted its original vision, neither of them ran the company in the beginning. In fact, Jobs didn’t become the titular boss until he returned from exile in the late 1990s.

Let’s go through the past CEOs of Apple.

Michael Scott – Apple’s First CEO 1977- 1981

“Scotty” was the Director of Manufacturing at National Semiconductor just before he became the first CEO of Apple, serving from February 1977 to March 1981.

Michael Scott was a visionary who set the example for businesses when he got rid of all typewriters at the company. Then there was “Black Friday,” February 25, 1981. Scott personally fired 40 employees then held a party at the end of the day.

“I used to say that when being CEO at Apple wasn’t fun any more, I’d quit,” he explained. “But now I’ve changed my mind — when it isn’t fun any more, I’ll fire people until it’s fun again.” (Source)

Mike Markkula 1981 – 1983


Mike was a millionaire by the time he was 32 and one of the first angel investors in Apple. In the movie, “Something Ventured” Markkula recants the time he first met Jobs and Steve Wozniak. At first, Markulla didn’t want anything to do with Apple but after a talk with Steve Jobs about his vision of the personal computer market, the reluctant boss changed his mind. He had been the person who initially hired Michael Scott as the CEO and it was fitting for him to take over after Scott’s fall.

During that time Apple hired John Sculley from Pepsi. Again, Jobs was the catalyst, convincing Sculley that he could change the world.

“He looked up at me and just stared at me with the stare that only Steve Jobs has and he said, ‘Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?'” Sculley later remembered. “I just gulped, because I knew I would wonder for the rest of my life what I would have missed.” (source)

Wanting to retire, Mike Markkula handed the reins of the company over to John Sculley.

John Sculley 1983 – 1993

Known as the “Sculley era” this was a time when Apple was going through a ton of changes and division. There was a power struggle at Apple between Sculley and Jobs that eventually forced the co-founder out.

Sculley’s tenure was marred by infighting among top managers and expensive projects that flopped in the marketplace. (Remember the Apple Newton?) He boosted the price of the Macintosh when personal computer prices were falling. The board ousted him in 1993, when Apple was slipping toward irrelevance or worse.

THE STAT: In 1987, Sculley was ­reported to be the highest-paid executive in Silicon Valley, earning a then-unheard-of $2.2 million.

Michael Spindler 1993-1996

Michael Spindler had a great reputation with Sculley, in part because Spindler seemed to pose little threat to Sculley in an era when corporate politics reigned supreme. On top of that, Spindler was a brilliant strategist, which won him attention both inside Apple and in the outside world.

Spindler’s first major act as CEO was to push through a radical reorganization. Over 2,500 jobs were cut, almost 15% of the workforce, and the company was totally restructured. Instead of lumping all of product development into one division, the company would now be grouped by market. The only remnant of the old Apple was AppleSoft, which was responsible for operating system development. This flattened structure dissipated the political standing of any individual head of product development, formerly the most powerful division at Apple.

Spindler’s biggest humiliation occurred at the annual meeting, usually an opportunity for the company to talk up new products and initiatives. The one held on January 23 was not celebratory. Spindler was drilled by belligerent shareholders for Apple’s financial results. For the entire meeting, Spindler sat ashen faced with his heads in his hands and offered meek defenses for his performance (though he did acknowledge that many of the problems Apple faced were because of him). (source)

Mike Markkula, still the company’s chairman, fired Michael Spindler shortly thereafter.

Gilbert Frank Amelio 1996-1997


The shortest tenure of any Apple CEO. Amelio was CEO during the dark days of Apple when the stock hit a 12 year low. In a boardroom coup, Steve Jobs convinced the board that Amelio was NOT the man for the job. “Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom, leaking water,” Jobs was quoted as saying. “My job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction”

A week after the meeting, Steve Jobs was interim CEO of Apple.

Steve Jobs 1997 – 2011


It only took 20 years but Steve Jobs finally got the title of CEO in a company that he created in his garage. Unquestionably, Steve Jobs turned Apple around and had brought innovation to the market that no other technology manufacturer has been able to match.

Jobs brought us the Mac computer. He brought us iTunes, and the iPod. He changed the way we download music, and he changed the way we use laptop computers. But Jobs made Apple arguably the most successful and powerful consumer-tech company in the world because he made the iPhone.

Steve Jobs made Apple what it is today and in a sudden move on Aug 25th 2011 Steve Jobs resigned his position at Apple, and the board named Tim Cook as the new CEO.

Tim Cook 2011 –

Tim Cook was recruited by Steve Jobs in 1998 from Compaq to lead Worldwide Operations. During his time with Apple Tim Cook was the interim CEO during Steve Jobs’s leave of absence for pancreatic cancer and again while Steve Jobs had a liver transplant.

With more money in the bank than the US Government, Apple has made itself stand out in the market in wys I don’t think anyone other than Steve jobs could have envisioned.

Steve will be missed as the CEO, but obviously will retain an influence as a board member. I have the impression that if Steve Jobs recommends Tim Cook, then we (the Apple fans) will be in great hands in the future.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Koka Sexton
Koka Sexton, Social Selling Evangelist and Sr. Social Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, is one of the most recognized social selling experts in the technology industry. A career in helping companies use social media for lead generation, creating new opportunities, and engaging customers. READ MORE at the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog.


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