Steve Jobs’s Infamous, Childish Prank

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Return to Apple

In February of 1997, after Apple had failed to deliver its operating system, Copland, CEO Gil Amelio turned to NeXT Computer (a company owned by founder and former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs), and the NeXTSTEP platform became the foundation for the Mac OS X.

Steve Jobs returned to Apple as an advisor.

Strategic Manipulation of the Playing Field

Apple’s stock continued to slump and hit a 12-year low in Q2 1997 that was at least partially caused by a single sale of 1.5 million shares of Apple stock on June 26 by an anonymous party (who was later confirmed to be Steve Jobs). Apple lost another $708 million.

On the July 4, 1997 weekend, Jobs convinced the directors to oust Amelio in a boardroom coup; Amelio submitted his resignation less than a week later; and Jobs then became interim CEO on September 16.

Now, Jobs’s strategic selling of 1.5 million shares was a brilliant, albeit sleazy, way to coerce the members of the board to put him in as interim CEO. Even when Jobs was at Apple previously, he was never the actually the CEO.

They did not know at the time that it was Jobs who sold the shares that caused the company to fall into a state of desperation. However, it’s hard not to admit that it was a brilliant move on Jobs’s part, and he more than made up for it once he was given the position.

Rise to Glory

Jobs brought Apple from near bankruptcy to profitability by 1998, with the creation of the iMac. Around that time, he also secretly began development of the iPod, iTunes, and a plan to create Apple retail stores.

With the completion and release of those products, along with appealing designs and powerful branding, in 2000 Jobs dropped the word “interim” from his title, meaning he was there to stay.

Many people are familiar with these details, as Jobs went on to continue creating amazing products and bringing Apple unparalleled success. He went down as one of the most influential inventors / businessmen in history. Jobs is also known for his ruthless, tyrannical management style, oftentimes belittling employees for mistakes.

What’s My Age Again?

What many people don’t hear about, however, is Jobs’s childish side. During the period of time that Jobs served as interim CEO of the company, it was generally accepted knowledge that Apple was searching for a CEO that would replace Jobs. They put him in that position, against their own fear that Jobs wasn’t really up for the role.

They didn’t know who else to turn to, so they decided to give him a shot, but they made sure he and everyone else knew it was not going to be a permanent gig, by adding “interim” to the title.

Jobs wasn’t concerned. He is a visionary, after all, and he could see years ahead of time how the pieces were going to fall together in his favor. He knew it was only a matter of time before the rest of the team saw what he was capable of and make him the permanent CEO.

Despite Jobs’s confidence that everything would go according to plan, it was still public knowledge that his role was temporary. There was an extremely ambitious man, named Michael Murdock, who was working as a computer consultant, but believed that he would be the best choice as Apple’s new CEO. He had certain unique ideas for what direction to take the company moving forward, and he pursued this role using the most state-of-the-art method of 1997: an email campaign.

He sent roughly four emails to various members of Apple’s board, as well as Jobs, detailing why he would be a great choice for CEO and be “the man who could save Apple.” Personally, I admire his ambition. I’ve tried to send emails to people of significant power before, thinking “there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.” If you manage to spark some intrigue from one of them, than the crazy plan worked.

Jobs, however, did not share my admiration for this man’s ambition and ingenuity. He saw it as an insult, since secretly he wanted to remain at the CEO position. He was not about to consider recommending putting somebody else in the slot in Apple’s best interest, because he believed that himself being in that slot was in Apple’s best interest. So, these emails really annoyed Jobs.

Jobs and Larry Ellison, Jobs’s friend, fellow board member of Apple, and eventual CEO of Oracle) sent out e-mails, two days before Christmas, appointing this man, Michael Murdock, as chief executive of Apple.

“OK. You can have the job. — Larry,” came the first message in the e-mail basket of Michael Murdock, the 36-year-old who had campaigned for Apple’s top spot.

Right behind Ellison’s e-mail came one from Jobs: “Yep, Mike, it’s all yours. When can you start?”

Hilarious, but Too Much

When Murdock, who took the emails seriously, replied that he would start work January 5, he got this email from Jobs:

“Please do not come to Apple. You will be asked to leave, and if you don’t, you will be arrested.”

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