Originally created 07/12/97

Ousted CEO says he `rescued' Apple



Gil Amelio isn't exactly hanging his head after being sacked from Apple Computer Inc.

In fact, Apple's former chairman and chief executive officer said in interviews published Friday that he "rescued" the troubled personal computer pioneer and that changes he made will help it recover.

"I did a long list of things that saved the company and gave it the option of having a future as opposed to what existed before," he told the Wall Street Journal. Most criticism of his performance is "very shallow," he said.

"People who know at a detailed level what has been going on at Apple recognize that I have done a hell of a job," Amelio added.

Amelio, whose departure from Apple was announced Wednesday, also discussed his 18-month tenure in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News.

He told that paper he agreed "to a point" with the decision that he should leave, unhesitatingly conceding that he lacks the marketing skills the board wanted. But he called it "a little drastic way" of solving Apple's problems.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., won a cult-like following in the 1980s with its easy-to-use Macintosh personal computer. But since then its fortunes have dwindled.

The company has lost $1.6 billion over the past six quarters and next week will report another money-losing quarter. Its market share and stock price plunged as the Mac was outmuscled by rival PCs using Intel Corp. chips and Microsoft Corp. software.

Apple, after ousting previous chief executive officer Michael Spindler, hired Amelio as chairman and CEO in February 1996. He slashed the work force, pruned the company's overgrown product line, formulated a new software strategy and improved product quality.

But red ink, and doubts about Apple's future continued to accumulate.

Amelio, however, said he had been able to make most of the changes he set out to make and depicted himself as an "emergency-room physician who rescued the patient," treating old injuries that became critical.

"Now it is time for the general practitioner to come in and exercise long-term care," he told the Wall Street Journal.

But many Apple watchers, while agreeing that Amelio did help the company, say he failed in a vital task: articulating a clear plan for Apple's future to inspire and win the support of the company's employees, business partners and customers.

"He was not a visionary leader and he never had the confidence of the employees," said Pieter Hartsook, publisher of The Hartsook Letter in Saratoga, Calif. and a former Apple vice president.

Amelio told the Mercury-News that he considers bringing co-founder Steve Jobs back to Apple one of his successes. Jobs, who was himself ousted from Apple in a 1985 power struggle, became an adviser at Apple last December, after the company announced a purchase of his company, Next Software Inc.

Speculation has run rampant about Jobs' role at Apple - and what involvement, if any, he had in Amelio's departure.

But Amelio said Jobs, whom he considers a friend, told him he played no part in getting him to leave. A member of Apple's board of directors, Edgar S. Woolard, told CNBC that Jobs doesn't want to be considered for CEO.

Amelio said his career "is certainly not over yet" but was unsure of his plans beyond Apple. He will remain with the company until September as a "grass-roots employee" to help with the transition. When he leaves, he'll be eligible for a severance package worth about $7 million.

During his tenure as CEO, Amelio's suit-and-tie dress and style contrasted sharply with the casual look and attitude of the company's workers. But that might change, he told the Mercury News.

"In fact, now that I'm just an everyday employee, I ought to start coming in in blue jeans and T-shirts like everyone else," he said.