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- April 19, 1993
- Vol. 39
- No. 15
The Man at Apple's Core Lives in No Time Zone—and Wants to Change Your Future
What Sculley, 54, has is a grueling, round-the-clock work schedule that is extraordinary even by CEO standards. If he isn't holding one of the 7 a.m. staff meetings that have been a staple at Apple since he joined the company 10 years ago, it is only because he is in Europe, Japan, Washington or somewhere else in the U.S. promoting Apple products and his vision of the future. "I don't live in any particular time zone," he says. "Sometimes I go to bed really tired, and I don't think I'm going to want to get up. Like last night. But This morning my mind was going in five different directions, and I was really excited and energized."
If Sculley is running on pure adrenaline these days, who can blame him? At a time when most personal-computer makers—including the behemoth IBM—are struggling for survival, Apple posted record revenues last year (more than $7 billion). The Powerbook, its notebook computer introduced in 1992, quickly became the best-selling computer on the market and a must-have accessory for the trendy. But for Sculley, selling computers is only the beginning. A Renaissance man who once had his sights set on a career in architecture and design, Sculley wants to change the world. Or at least America.
"Our resources are no longer coal and iron ore and things that come out of the ground," he says in his sparsely furnished office at Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley. "The strategic resources are things that come out of people's minds." Sculley has campaigned vigorously for fundamental changes in education, job training and the economy to meet the high-tech future. He is also fighting for the construction of a technology infrastructure—a nationwide "data superhighway"—that would transmit vast quantities of information quickly and help create jobs.
It is this vision of the future that transformed Sculley, a lifelong Republican, into an avid Clinton supporter. George Bush "is a very nice person, but he obviously had no interest in anything we [in the high-tech industry] were talking about," says Sculley. "Remember, this was the President who was amazed by the scanner in a supermarket." Sculley, who had met the Clintons while Bill was still a Governor, helped mobilize the business community for the Democratic ticket and has become a valued adviser to both Bill and Hillary. "John was instrumental in the development of the President's overall economic plan," says White House Chief of Staff Thomas McLarty. The Clintons, Sculley says, "are the kind of people I'm attracted to. They're builders."
As a child growing up in New York City, Sculley was, by his own admission, a nerd. Hindered by a severe speech impediment, he lived in the interior world of his imagination until his mid-teens, when, with the help of a hypnotist, he overcame his stammering. "I couldn't even walk into a store and buy a pack of gum," says the man who is now one of the corporate world's most sought-after speakers.
Inspired by his grandfather W.B. Smith, a sailor, boat builder and engineer who helped design one of the first submarines, Sculley wanted to be an inventor. But he also inherited his mother Margaret's love of art. "He was constantly drawing and building things," says his younger brother David, 46. Sculley dreamed of combining his passions for art and inventing by becoming an industrial designer. However, his father, Jack, a Wall Street lawyer, wanted his sons to follow in his footsteps.
When Sculley announced his intention to skip college and go to art school, his father wouldn't allow it. In a compromise, Sculley studied architecture at Brown University during the day and art at the nearby Rhode Island School of Design by night. In 1960, while still at Brown, Sculley married Ruth, stepdaughter of PepsiCo president Donald Kendall. The couple had two children, Meg, now 30, and Jack, 27, and Sculley's relationship with his father-in-law changed the course of his life. At Kendall's urging, Sculley took a business degree from the Wharton School, then went to work at McCann-Erickson, a New York City advertising agency. His marriage to Ruth ended in 1965, however, a victim of Sculley's unyielding passion for work.
Once they were no longer related (Kendall and Ruth's mother were divorced at about the same time as Sculley and Ruth), Kendall hired Sculley at PepsiCo, where he learned every phase of the business, lugging soda eases around stockrooms, tearing his fingers repacking bottles and sweating in the Arizona sun installing Pepsi signs. In 1977 Sculley was named president of PepsiCo"s soft drink division. Married briefly for a second time. Sculley then stirred controversy within the company in 1978 by marrying his third wife, Carol Lee "Leezy" Adams, now 49, the ex-wife of a former PepsiCo vice president and the mother of a 10-year-old daughter.
By 1982, Sculley was one of three hand-picked contenders to replace Kendall as chairman of PepsiCo when he retired. It was then that Sculley was unexpectedly offered the top spot at Apple. He knew little about computers, but was attractive for his management skills. Though Apple was only five years old—having moved al warp speed from a company located in the garage of its founders, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, to the FORTUNE 500—the opportunity captured Sculley's imagination. So did the now famous pitch made by Jobs, then 28, a vegetarian and a college dropout. "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water?" Jobs asked Sculley. "Or do you want a chance to change the world?"
Choosing the latter required an adjustment of epic proportions for Sculley. who had to go from pinstripes to corduroy and from formal meetings in the august PepsiCo boardroom to brainstorming in Apple's funky cubicles. Perhaps most significant, he went from being a respected leader in his industry to an object of suspicion that he was just another empty suit. Sculley quickly proved otherwise when, less than two years into his tenure at Apple, the bottom fell out of the computer market. Sculley had to make tough decisions—decisions Steve Jobs con bin I live with. "Everyone says I took his company away from him," Sculley says, "but I told him he could have it back. I didn't like the direction it was going. It was ultimately the board of directors who made the decision." Jobs, who quit and started a computer company called Next, refuses to comment.
To get Apple back on track, Sculley, who is known for such openhanded policies as on-site childcare, profit sharing and employee sabbaticals, cut staff, closed factories and reorganized the company. When a second crisis occurred in 1990, he reduced his own $2.2 million salary by a third and look over the reins as technical chief. In that role, he has now bet the future of the company on a new group of products called the Newton, scheduled for introduction later ibis year. The small, hand-held devices perform a wide variety of office functions—as typewriters, calculators, calendars, faxes, modems, telephones and radios. "If it works out well, it will be great." he says. "If it doesn't work out, I guess I'll be looking for a new job." With Sculley's history, no one is betting against him.
LAIRD HARRISON in Silicon Valley
- Laird Harrison.
March 28, 2015
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