Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

Summary: Recalling Sun's heyday in the mid-'90s, former CEOs Scott McNealy and Ed Zander waxed nostalgic about the time they almost bought Apple Computer.

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Recalling Sun's heyday in the mid-'90s, former CEOs Scott McNealy and Ed Zander waxed nostalgic about the time they almost bought Apple Computer.

In an interesting eWEEK story about a dinner talk given by the two executives, the pair discuss memories about the time in 1995 and 1996 when the Silcon Valley was abuzz with rumors of an impending buyout. According to Zander, Sun was just "hours away" from a deal.

“Honest to gosh, I was at an analysts' meeting in San Diego on a Tuesday morning and was getting ready to announce that we were going to buy Apple.  I don't know what we were going to do with it, but we were going to buy it. (Apple) had no CEO at the time, Steve (Jobs) wasn't there, but we didn't get it. Why didn't we buy it?"

"We wanted to do it," McNealy said. "There was an investment banker on the Apple side, an absolute disaster, and he basically blocked it. He put so many terms into the deal that we couldn't afford to go do it."

"Just think, that if that night had been different, I don't know what would have happened," Zander said.

As he has on other occasions, McNealy said that if Sun had bought Apple there wouldn't have been iPods or iPads. "I'd have screwed that up," he said.

No doubt. Few saw what the Internet would become back then. The iPad was almost science fiction.

Check Out: Takeover Fever: The Apple-Sun saga

At the time, I was a reporter at MacWEEK, the industry's only Mac-centric news source. Our reporting at the time saw things a bit differently. Here's  the reporting from the January 29, 1996 issue:

However, MacWEEK has learned that, as of press time, Apple and Sun are not close to signing a deal, much less setting a price for the stock. In fact, despite published reports, even relatively simple matters, such as which parts of Apple’s business Sun would be interested in acquiring, have not been settled. Sources close to the company said Apple is continuing discussions with several suitors and potential strategic partners and that no option, including remaining independent, has been excluded.

A former Apple executive said top management had been overly confident that a deal with Sun was at hand and failed to develop a complete restructuring program in case the deal fell through by the end of 1995.

Apple’s $69 million loss last quarter set back the Sun negotiations, and Apple had to scramble to restructure, sources said. The result was an incomplete plan.

I am sure that Zander is correct in his recollection. He thought at the time that Sun would prevail. Apple was down and everyone thought they were out for the count. Dead. Of course, Sun would bring the Macintosh into the fold.

At the same time, I've met many executives who thought that a deal was done when it wasn't, especially when negotiating with Apple. Something that appeared simple was instead very complex. And until the ink was dry enough to fax, it wasn't done.

And as McNealy suggests, we can all be thankful that the deal fell through.

I've written about the history of various Apple-Sun buyout rumors (three in all). Here's the story...

Topics: Apple, Browser, Hardware, Oracle

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  • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

    Just think, that if that night had been different, I dont know what would have happened, Zander said.<br><br>He would have fired all of Apple's innovative staff. And went about buying minor useless companies around Cupertino to bolster his ego.<br><br>I can tell you exactly what would have happened. Apple would have gone down in flames and there would be no iMac, iPhone, iTV or any of the wonderful things we expect and get from Apple. <br><br>Ed Zander is an IDIOT who destroyed Motorola by firing off anyone who was innovative. He strongly opposed the production of the Razr which Chris Galvin started.<br><br>Ed Zander fired everyone in Motorola Labs - which could have given Motorola a chance against Apple. <br><br>He even managed to convince Steve Jobs to allow Motorola to develop a phone that synced with iTunes - the original iPhone. TOTAL COMPLETE UTTER disaster. I think Steve must have felt sick when he saw that piece of crap. <br><br>What Motorola did was shoehorn iTunes on an existing candy bar phone and added a microSD holder to hold the music. The little tin holder kept breaking off. <br><br>So thank god that Ed Zander the Idiot did not get hold of Apple.
    abc123a
    • Seems like both of them made a mess of things

      @abc123a Scott probably made more of a mess. Who would have thought Oracle would end up owning Sun?
      otaddy
      • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

        @otaddy
        Scott has nothing to do with Oracle acquisition. First, Intel acquired the technology from Compaq (DEC) to compete with the SPARC to create a better and cheaper CPUs. CHEAPER drove the nail to the eventual demise of the SPARC platform. And second, add to it the dismal condition of the economy and you have a condition where even the most fanatic SUN believers/investors would be willing to sell their beloved SUN to protect their investment. True Scott and company made some wrong decision, IN HINDSIGHT OF COURSE, but it was just the market conditions that brought them down. Everybody wanted cheap that works. And now almost everbody sing praises about apple ipad, because everybody seems to forget how the media used to crucify Steve for developing the newton. How fate changes? But another upheaval is coming and everybody seems to be sleeping. Steve Jobs can not stay forever. After he is gone, what's next?
        kc63092@...
      • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

        @kc63092

        Steve Jobs didn't develop the Newton. He was on the Mac team driving everyone nuts until John Sculley (then CEO of Apple) cut him loose. Sculley was the one who championed the Newton's development. Ironically, it was praised as being revolutionary, but was usually criticized for being big, slow, having poor battery life, etc. Yet, in time, others -- and eventually Apple -- solved all those problems, and now we have iPhones and iPads that are even more intuitive. So, Sculley was proven right: mobile computing really was the future of the company ... he was just too far ahead of the technology curve to make it happen.
        As for what's next ... Jobs may be the figurehead (and no doubt a creative genius in the tech field) but he's not the only one calling the shots at Apple. God forbid his health should get any worse any time soon, but either way, Apple has done well attracting visionary folks who will no doubt be able to keep the company innovating for years to come.
        jscott69
    • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

      @abc123a More like Steve just stole that shit and claimed he was innovative...
      snoop0x7b
  • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

    Ed lost $30b +/- in shareholder value at Moto and many more billions off the P&L. What do you think he would have done? Maybe thin computers? He's a moron. We should sue him for all the incompetent decisions he made at Moto, like the idiot Ron G running mobile devices.
    richard@...
  • March of the plunderbund zombies

    [b]Zander[/b]: [i]"I don?t know what we were going to do with it, but we were going to buy it."[/i]

    [b]McNealy[/b] said that if Sun had bought Apple there wouldn?t have been iPods or iPads. [i]"I'd have screwed that up."[/i]

    Buy! Buy! Buy! Perfect encapsulation of modern-day corporate shenanigans, in essence legalized forms of gangland warfare run by syndicates with bank accounts - and egos - bursting at the seams.

    Throw money around at any securable target in the name of aggrandizement with a thoroughly mindless "bigger must be better!" mentality. Whether such actions in turn wreck a lot of careers and disrupt families needlessly is of little concern to the brass monkeys at the top -- their corpse filled moats remain FDIC insured.
    klumper
  • Idiots on the Short Bus...

    ...Woulda...Coulda...Shoulda...

    These morons are just proving they were as stupid then as they are now. Everything they touch turns to rank piles of garbage. Good thing it didn't happen.
    james347
  • Some wins, bigger loses

    The competitive marketplace is minefield, littered with the corpses of failed companies.

    The interview is refreshing for it's honesty. With the benefit of hindsight many decisions would be made differently.

    Sun was a very interesting company with some very good technologies. If they had have pushed an open source solaris (e.g. RHEL model) and moved to open Java much earlier (headed off .NET) the computing world could be very different today.

    In business there is no guarantees. A couple of missed opportunities or bad decisions can kill you. But this market process is also responsible for the high standard of living we enjoy today.
    Richard Flude
    • Good points

      @Richard Flude I think Sun had a lot of great technologies but they didnt know how to market them. Scott spent his time mocking Microsoft when he should have been building his business.
      otaddy
    • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

      @Richard Flude
      Very well said. I totally agree with you.
      Ram U
    • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

      @Richard Flude Exactly. And Oracle is still wiping their ass with what Sun could have been.
      snoop0x7b
  • I know what would have happened

    ?Just think, that if that night had been different, I don?t know what would have happened?
    There will be further fragmentation of Java. Apple machines will run Solaris. Finally the whole thing becomes so much of a mess that Sun switches business model to perform circus spectacles and to be finally purchased by Cirque du Soleil. And actually this is what is going to happen to Oracle when their customers become pissed off and realize that the Oracle king is naked.
    RelaxWalk
  • Sealed with an ironic kiss

    <i>"Why didn't we buy it? We wanted to do it," McNealy said. "There was an investment banker on the Apple side, an absolute disaster, and he basically blocked it. He put so many terms into the deal that we couldn't afford to go do it."</i><br><br>Who would ever guess, considering the conduct of their own voracious fraternity over the last decade, that it would be an <b><i>investment banker</i></b> who saved the day! :O
    klumper
  • THANK GOD!

    We would still be using MP3 players with 256 MB of memory, we would still live in a world with clamshell phones and tablets would be something bill gates dreamed of
    Hasam1991
    • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

      @Hasam1991 umm no. Apple didn't invent the smart phone... Blackberry, Microsoft, Nokia, Sony, and Palm all had smart phones long before that jackass in a black turtle neck danced around on stage. Apple also didn't invent the first hard disk based MP3 player, that belongs to Archos. Apple wasn't even the second hard drive based MP3 player...
      snoop0x7b
  • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

    Thank God for that nameless investment banker (I never thought I'd say that)
    bentoth
  • RE: Sun's McNealy, Zander riff on 1995 buyout attempt for Apple

    Yes, THANK GOD SUN DIDN'T BUY APPLE.
    Sun would have been bad to Apple hardware & software but I could only have nightmares of what Oracle would do to Apple now.
    phatkat