Photo: Fulvio Obregon
September 16, 1985 and 1997: Twice on this day, Steve Jobs makes significant moves with regard to his career at Apple. In 1985, he quits the company he co-founded. Then, a little more than a decade later, he officially rejoins Apple as its new interim CEO.
In terms of the emotions associated with those historic occasions, it’s hard to think of two more polarizing days in Jobs’ life.
Steve Jobs leaves Apple in 1985
The story behind Jobs’ 1985 departure is, by now, well-known. After losing a boardroom battle with John Sculley — a CEO Jobs recruited from Pepsi a couple years earlier — Jobs decided to leave Apple, feeling forced out of the company he started.
After weeks of rumors that Jobs would quit and set up his own rival company, prompted by a flurry of sales of his AAPL stock holdings totaling $21.43 million, he officially departed on September 16, 1985. He took with him a number of Apple employees to start NeXT Inc., his follow-up computer company.
NeXT never became the success Jobs hoped it would be. And in some ways, the company showcased the worst aspects of his perfectionist, “feature creep” tendencies. However, NeXT occupied an immensely important period in Jobs’ life, letting him hone his abilities as a CEO.
Also during this period, he became a billionaire, thanks to a canny investment in Pixar Animation Studios. Jobs won big by buying into the struggling George Lucas startup (yes, that George Lucas), which had yet to release its first feature-length film.
Steve Jobs returns to Apple in 1997
The $400 million sale of NeXT to Apple in December 1996 brought Jobs back into Cupertino’s fold. At the time, the company was run by Gil Amelio, a CEO who oversaw Apple’s worst-ever financial quarter. When Amelio departed, Jobs offered to help Apple locate new leadership. He stepped into the role of CEO until someone suitable could be found.
Meanwhile, the UNIX-based operating system Jobs developed at NeXT laid the groundwork for OS X, which Apple continues to build upon with its latest versions of macOS.
On September 16, 1997, Apple officially announced Jobs as its interim CEO. This quickly became shortened to iCEO, which makes Jobs’ role the first “i” release, predating even the iMac G3.
Do you remember Jobs’ return to (or departure from) Apple? Leave your comments below.