Gil Amelio: Can someone please shut him up?

COMMENTARYJoe Stalin would have appreciated Gil Amelio.Everywhere you look--newspapers, radio, television and the Web-there's Comrade Gil, spinning wonderful tales of the job he did while Numero Uno at Apple.


Joe Stalin would have appreciated Gil Amelio.

Everywhere you look--newspapers, radio, television and the Web-there's Comrade Gil, spinning wonderful tales of the job he did while Numero Uno at Apple.

Owing to circumstances beyond his control-and thanks to a $7 million-plus severance package--Amelio has had ample time to publicly ruminate about the recent past, present and future of his former employers.


No problem, I suppose-unless you prefer a dose or two of truth with your morning coffee because Amelio has been spinning one whale of a tale.

The conventional wisdom is that Amelio, who replaced Michael Spindler, was hopelessly over his head. Even before he was sent packing, critics said Apple would have been better off selecting someone else as its chief executive.

But since being removed as Apple's chairman and chief executive in July, Amelio has pedaled a sanitized version of the events that unfolded during his watch. The rosy story line reads like a page out of Pravda: self-proclaimed turnaround specialist takes over a troubled company and leaves things in ship-shape condition.

At first, I blamed all this weirdness on El Nino--though how much can you actually pin on a funky weather pattern?

There's a better explanation.

Who in their right mind would want to go down in history as a hopeless bumbler?

Amelio is understandably motivated to make sure his upside-down version of history gets an official stamp of approval. And since the day he was forced out, Amelio has been one spin-meistering SOB.

Next time Amelio gets up on a public soapbox, though, I hope the interviewer asks about the missteps, the technological stagnation, and the management turmoil that accompanied his stewardship at Apple.

By the end of the second quarter of 1997, Apple's share of its own Macintosh market had slipped to the 80 percent mark, down from 90 percent a year earlier, according to Dataquest. That's because clone makers were making hay under Amelio's watch.

Even though Apple had lots of cash in the bank-when you fire people, expenses drop-the losses mounted and company's market share fell.

Then there were the bizarre interlopers who lent a soap opera quality to the story--mysterious takeover candidates in the persons of a Saudi sheik and a self-obsessed Silicon Valley billionaire.

Just how out of whack with reality was Amelio? Consider that it was only last month that he said he suspected that Steve Jobs may have played a role in his ouster.

Here's what Amelio told the San Francisco Examiner in late September:

"Now, what I'm saying is if Steve had absolutely nothing to do with it, he would go on the record in the press and say that, and he would acknowledge my real contributions to the company in getting things fixed. And since he hasn't done either, it makes me suspicious."

Uh huh. I'm sure that St. Steve is clueless enough to publicly confess that he's a snake. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn you can buy-for cheap.


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