Thursday, Jan 14, 2021, 13:20 Rewind

25 Years Ago – When Apple Almost Disappeared

We've all looked back at our lives at least once and been tempted to ask, "What would have happened if...?" The question is often more exciting than it is easy to answer. Had Apple decided to relinquish control of the company in 1996, then the world of tech would presumably look quite different. In 1996 Apple stood directly before complete collapse. The brand, known world-wide today, was in such a rut that many market observers considered only two scenarios to be possible. Either complete cessation of business operations or acquisition of the company by another manufacturer as a subsidary – should nothing else be possible. Barely anyone could forsee Apple becoming a dominant force in the techworld in less than 2 decades.

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January 1996: The Board Wants to Sell
25 years ago Apple's board met with a New York law firm to important discuss agenda items for sale of the entire company to Sun Microsystems. Details looked promising and Apple's board was convinced. As the at the time newly appointed CEO, Gil Amelio, retells it, a condition set forth by Sun led to the collapse of the deal. Sun's CEO and founder, Scott McNealy, planned to discontinue the brand after acquisitionand all continued products from the Apple portfolio would have had to bear the Sun logo. It also wasn't clear to what extent Sun would have continued production of Apple's products in accordance with the company's tradition.


Gil Amelio was supposed to rehabilitate Apple


Amelio Becomes CEO – and Ends the Talks with Sun
The second agenda item discussed at the meeting was the installation of Gil Amelio as CEO to either rehabilitate the company, or to find a buyer. Amelio decided against selling to Sun, as word from Sun was that even they considered their own offer low. Adjusted for split, Sun wanted to buy the company for 21¢ USD a stock, but Amelio had counted on at least 27¢ USD (at the time, $23 USD vs. $30, the share price was at $28 USD). In ten words Amelio ended the talks with Sun, "Scott, that's impossible. I can't get behind that at all."

Amelio Fails – and Then Saves Apple
Although Amelio didn't succeed in getting Apple back on track during his 500 days spent as Apple's CEO, he is the one who ensured the company's "golden future". During his term he decided to discontinue the seemingly endless Project Copeland (work on a new OS) and initiate the switch to investing in Mac OS 8. The next step in Amelio's strategy was to look for the successor of the classic Mac OS outside of the company. Be with system BeOS was considered the most likely candidate, however the competition was won by NeXT (founded by Jobs after being forced out of Apple) with NextStep – and accompanied by the return of Steve Jobs.

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