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Home/Blog/A Timeline of Apple CEOs
2 Aug 2021 · 7 minutes read
· by Mairead Bond

A Timeline of Apple CEOs

Apple was co-founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976. However, none of them actually ran the company in the beginning.
In this article we look through the history of Apple's seven CEOs, starting with Michael Scott in 1977, right up to the present CEO, Tim Cook. 

1. Michael Scott 1977 - 1981
Prior to becoming Apple's first CEO, Michael ‘Scotty' Scott was the Director of Manufacturing at National Semiconductor. Scott was persuaded by Mike Markkula (read about him below) to take the CEO position at Apple as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were both seen to be inexperienced at the time.
What Scott is probably most famous for during his time as CEO, was the 'Black Wednesday' event. On Wednesday 25th, 1981, Scott personally fired 40 employees and held a party at the end of the day. Scott then assembled the remaining Apple employees and joked about firing people until Apple became fun again. 

2. Mike Markkula 1981 – 1983
Before arriving at Apple, Mike was an electrical engineer, businessman and investor. He had been lured out of retirement by Steve Jobs who had convinced him that there was an exciting market for personal computers. Convinced, Markkula brought his business expertise to Apple in 1977, along with $250,000 (plus $80,000 as an equity investment in the company and $170,000 as a loan) and he became a one-third owner of Apple and the third ever employee of the company. 
As a trained engineer Markkula possessed valuable technical skills. He wrote several early Apple II programs, served as a beta tester for Apple hardware and software, and wrote one of the first three programs available for the unsuccessful Apple III. After Scott's fall it was fitting for Markkula, who initially hired Scott, to take over the role of CEO. After a 2-year interim as CEO, Mike stayed on Apple's board of directors until 1997. 

3. John Sculley 1983 – 1993
John Sculley had previously worked for Pepsi and was named Pepsi's youngest-ever president. Steve Jobs persuaded Sculley to move away from Pepsi in order to apply his marketing skills to the personal computer market. When Mike Markkula wanted to retire, Sculley seemed like the best option to take over rather than Jobs, as he still seemed to lack experience. With Sculley's solid business background and recent success at Pepsi, he was seen as a good option to give Apple an image of reliability and stability. However, a power struggle between Jobs and Sculley soon became apparent. Jobs kept meetings running past midnight, sending out lengthy faxes, and calling new meetings at 7:00 am. Sculley also had little control over the Macintosh division where Jobs was the general manager. The Apple board of directors instructed Sculley to ‘contain’ Jobs. Rather than follow Sculley's instructions, Jobs attempted to oust Scully from Apple. Sculley found out about Jobs' plans and called a board meeting where Apple's board of directors sided with Sculley and removed Jobs from his managerial duties. Jobs resigned from Apple and didn't return until 1997.
After Jobs left, Sculley was named president and the company experienced a serious turnaround in 1986. During Sculley's leadership, Apple introduced a faster microprocessor and renamed "The Macintosh Office" to "Desktop Publishing". Apple also introduced the PowerBook in 1991 as well as System 7, a major upgrade to the operating system, which added colour to the interface and introduced new networking capabilities. Apple was now enjoying great success again. The magazine MacAddict named the period between 1989 and 1991 as the 'first golden age' of the Macintosh. Under the leadership of Sculley, Apple's sales multiplied from $982 million in 1983 to $7.9 billion in 1993. However, after a bad first quarter in 1993, which involved a personal-computer price war and internal tension over the company's direction, Apple's board forced Sculley out.

4. Michael Spindler 1993 - 1996
German-born Spindler joined Apple in 1980 after Markkula brought him over to help out with Apple's European office. Spindler quickly rose through the ranks in Apple's European operations, first as President of Apple Europe and then as President of Apple International. When Sculley was fired in October 1993, Spindler was chosen to take over as Apple's CEO.
Spindler’s first major act as CEO was to push through a radical reorganisation, which included a cut of 2,500 jobs. Instead of grouping all of product development into one division, the team would now be grouped by product market. Spindler presided over several successful projects during his time, such as the introduction of the PowerPC, as well as some major failures, including the Newton and the Copland operating system. Spindler didn't enjoy the spotlight that being CEO brought. He preferred instead to work on operational management and strategy without the fanfare of being CEO.

5. Gilbert Frank Amelio 1996 - 1997
Amelio was CEO during Apple’s dark days when the stock hit a 12 year low. His was the shortest period of any Apple CEO. Prior to his time at Apple, Amelio was the CEO of National Semiconductor. In 1994, National Semiconductor was a huge supplier to Apple, so unsurprisingly, Amelio was approached by Apple to join the board of directors. In February 1996, Apple announced that Amelio would take over from Spindler as CEO in hopes of turning around the company. However, Amelio was not much better than Spindler. 
There were a couple of key events which cut short Amelio's time at Apple. First, Amelio's changes weren't aggressive enough. Apple needed new ideas, but Amelio was not the marketing genius who could deliver them. Secondly, a disastrous quarter occurred under Amelio's leadership in 1997 which saw an overall deficit of $1.6 billion. By this time, Jobs was now far more experienced and had become a billionaire thanks to his role running Pixar. Jobs persuaded the Apple Board that Amelio was not cut out of the job. “Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom, leaking water,” Jobs stated. “My job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction”. A week after the meeting, Steve Jobs was interim CEO of Apple.

6. Steve Jobs 1997 – 2011
20 years since creating the company in his Garage, Jobs finally achieved the role of Apple's CEO. Jobs turned Apple around and brought innovation to the market that no other technology manufacturer could match. Jobs brought us the Mac computer, iTunes, iPod, the App Store and the iPad. And perhaps most importantly, the iPhone. The launch of the iPhone is seen to be one of the most important consumer electronics device ever released. The iPhone changed the way we interact with the world and each other. In 2001, the original Mac OS was replaced with the completely new Mac OS X (now known as macOS). Steve Jobs truly made Apple what it is today. 
Jobs was famous for his 'uniform'; a black long-sleeved mock turtleneck made by Issey Miyake, Levi's 501 blue jeans, and New Balance 991 sneakers. He said his choice was inspired by that of Stuart Geman, an applied mathematics professor at Brown University. Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson "...he came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style.” On August 25th 2011, Steve Jobs resigned from his position at Apple, and the board named Tim Cook as the new CEO. Some argue that while the late Steve Jobs was an extraordinary innovator, but he wasn’t a great CEO 

7. Tim Cook 2011 – Present
Tim Cook was recruited by Steve Jobs in 1998 from Compaq to lead Worldwide Operations. Before he became CEO, Tim Cook was the interim CEO during Jobs' leave of absence for pancreatic cancer, and again while Jobs had a liver transplant.
Tim Cook is a private man whose accomplishments are based around the company's desire to "leave the planet better than we found it." He is known to be more outspoken and engaged politically than his predecessors and is reportedly "not a product person", unlike Steve Jobs. Under Cook's leadership, Apple has become the world’s first trillion-dollar company. Apple reached this landmark on August 2, 2018, when Apple’s stock hit $207.05. In terms of brand value, Cook is transforming Apple into a company with progressive values around inclusion, diversity and privacy, and is championing the company’s environmental initiative. In 2011, when Jobs died, Greenpeace’s Greener Electronics Guide scored the company at just under five out of ten in its commitment to the environment. Since Cook took over, Apple has invested billions in green power and is now running on 100 per cent renewable energy worldwide.
Did you learn anything new about Apple's history of CEOs? Let us know over on our social media channels below!
Published 2 Aug 2021 by Mairead Bond
Mairead Bond
E-commerce Executive

Since early 2021, Mairead's role includes writing and editing everything to do with the Megamac Blog to provide those tech questions we all need answers to. She is keenly interested in Apple tech, Instagram content and travel.

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