35 Years Ago, Steve Jobs Attempted to Lead a Coup to Retake Apple Inc.

Steve Jobs Apple Inc Credit: Mark Gregory / CC
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For many Apple aficionados, the history of the company can often seem focused on Steve Jobs. After all, Jobs founded the company and molded it into the aesthetic, tech powerhouse that it is today. But there was a time where Jobs’ interests were considered contrary to that of Apple as a whole.

In the early 80s, Apple’s technology was innovative and offered a unique model for users to operate under. However, it struggled in a number of ways. Early on, Apple’s devices lacked the applications that most truly needed, such as business-oriented software. This was, in part, due to the inability to get developers to build software that was Mac-compatible. The hardware was also struggling on its own, as the 128k ROM fought to run most of it. A significant upgrade to Apple’s hardware would have to happen in order to keep up. 

By 1985, the company was in decline. Not only did Apple have to fire 20% of its staff, but it had to make significant motions to meet their quotas. So in mid-April 1985, Apple leadership decided to make some huge moves.

John Sculley, Apple’s CEO at the time, demanded that the board of directors have Steve Jobs relieved of his position as an Apple vice president and general manager of the Macintosh department. Instead, Jobs would operate as the “face” of the company, but lose any and all influence he previously had on the core operations of the business.

As soon as Jobs heard about this development, he was furious.

Jobs attempted to organize an internal coup in hopes of removing Sculley (who Jobs had hired prior to this). Sculley told the board that “I’m asking Steve to step down and you can back me on it and then I take responsibility for running the company, or we can do nothing and you’re going to find yourselves a new CEO.”

In other words, Apple could either remove Jobs from his current role, or they could lose a CEO who had proven himself time and again through his work at Apple and his prior employment at Pepsi.

The board almost unanimously voted in favor of supporting Sculley’s motion. In May of that same year, Jobs moved to his new position. Just four months later, Jobs would sell all of his stock in Apple and resign from his role, going on to help found Pixar and NeXT.

The events of this particular development would create a significant relational barrier between Jobs and Sculley, with Sculley stating that he regrets the events that happened in that tumultuous quarter. 

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