John Sculley

From Academic Kids

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John Sculley (born April 6, 1939) was a president of Pepsi Cola USA until he was named president and CEO of Apple Computer on April 8, 1983. Sculley is currently a partner in Sculley Brothers, a private investment firm formed in 1995.


Sculley was born in the United States, but within the week of his birth, he and his family were relocated to Bermuda. Later he would live in Brazil and Europe. At the age of fourteen, he invented a color cathode ray tube, but was unable to get it patented because Dr. Lawrence of Lawrence-Livermore Laboratories had filed a similar patent to his a few weeks prior. Lawrence's patent was later acquired by Sony and eventually became the forerunner for the technology that led to the Trinitron color television tube. Sculley received a bachelor's degree in architectural design from Brown University and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business.

Personal Life

John Sculley married Ruth (surname unknown) in 1960, but divorced in 1965. In 1978 Sculley married Carol Lee "Leezy" Adams. While married to Ruth, Sculley had a daughter, Meg and son, Jack.

Apple Computer

While chairman of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs wooed Sculley from Pepsi by asking him, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?" In 1985, Sculley pushed Jobs out of the company.

Under Sculley, Apple licensed parts of the Macintosh GUI to Microsoft for use in Windows 1.0. Microsoft threatened to discontinue Microsoft Office for the Macintosh and Sculley submitted under the pressure. This agreement doomed Apple's later lawsuit against Microsoft (Apple v. Microsoft). Also while at Apple, Sculley coined the term personal digital assistant referring to the Apple Newton.

The Sculley Era

The "Sculley Era" at Apple was characterized by market division and further subdivision, with a large number of models covering what critics called a too-finely subdivided range. Each production model was marketed under different names in each of several primary markets — home, education, and business. This "business school" technique backfired, as it resulted in high manufacturing costs (why produce four different chassis when two will do), high marketing costs (each market needed an individual approach and venue for advertising), and market confusion ("I'm a teacher sidelining in business and doing personal e-mail and shopping at home — which of these numerous computers is right for me?"). Too many products that essentially did the same thing resulted in a failed business model that drove profits so low (despite the highest gross margins in the industry) that Apple's board forced Sculley out. He was replaced by Michael Spindler and then by Gilbert F. Amelio, whose performances were also found wanting by the board.

Another side effect of his tenure was the slow but eventual destruction of Apple's engineering department. As the company grew and was cash-flush, mid- and low-level managers within the company found it fairly easy to gain funding for practically any project. Apple became filled with "me too" efforts, many of which had dubious commercial potential. When money tightened in the early 1990s, this resulted in a sweeping round of empire building, in which mid-level managers attempted to take over as many projects as possible in order to make their projects unkillable. Over the period from about 1990 to 1995, very few successful releases were made with the exception of the operating system, while massive projects such as QuickDraw GX and PowerTalk were released in essentially unusable forms and saw almost no use.

While at Apple Sculley made many famous predictions in a Playboy interview in 1987. Some now appear foolish; for example, he predicted that the Soviet Union would land a man on Mars within the next 20 years. However other predictions rang true such as the claim that optical storage media (CD-ROM) would revolutionize the use of personal computers. Some of his ideas for the Knowledge Navigator would eventually be fulfilled not by Apple itself, but by the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Preceded by:
Mike Markkula
Apple CEO
Succeeded by:
Michael Spindler

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