This feature first appeared in SUCCESS in August 1996. A year later, Apple acquired Jobs' NeXT computer company, returning him to Apple, where he has served as CEO since. Pixar was acquired by Disney in 2006, making Jobs the largest Disney shareholder.
One spring day in 1985, Steve Jobs, the legendary co-founder and chairman of the board of Apple Computer, called together his top aides. He told them Apple President John Sculley—his former best friend—was trying to oust him and asked for their support. Over the next week, Jobs called Apple directors, warning them that a choice had to be made between Sculley and himself. The company was not big enough for both of them.
The board agreed—but not the way Jobs wanted. Over the Memorial Day weekend, he lost the battle and control of the company he had created. For the visionary who created the market for personal computers, it was a bitter blow. Over the summer, he went into hiding. Nobody ever expected to hear from him again.
Jobs always had nerve. When he was 12 years old, he called Hewlett- Packard President William Hewlett for help with a science project. Hewlet spent 20 minutes on the phone— and gave Jobs a summer job.
In 1975, Jobs sold his Volkswagen minibus, got his father to clear out a space in the garage, and, with fellow California wunderkind Stephen Wozniak, built the first fully assembled personal computer in the world: the Apple. Wozniak was the better techie, but Jobs was the visionary. At a time when computers filled rooms at giant corporations, Jobs believed he could put one on every desktop. And he did, revolutionizing the way people work and play, and making Jobs and many others into millionaires. By 1981, it was a billion-dollar company.
A child of the 1960s—as a young man, he dropped acid and sought enlightenment in India—Jobs became known for his hippie-dippie values, wearing his hair long and sleeping on a mattress on the floor of his mansion. His stubborn, strong-willed style cost him friends (including Wozniak) and led him to make decisions that hurt Apple's market share.
In 1983, he wooed John Sculley, president of Pepsi-Cola Co., to Apple by asking, "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?" For months, the two were best friends. Employees called it "the love affair." Jobs and Sculley called each other morning, noon and night, becoming so close they would "finish each other's sentences."
By mid-1985, the two disagreed about Apple's direction, and Jobs lost operational control of Apple in the ensuing showdown. He was banished to an office in an auxiliary building, which he dubbed "Siberia." Top executives stopped reporting to him.
Jobs spent the summer traveling and thinking, then announced he would start a new computer venture. Sculley held out an olive branch, suggesting Apple might even invest in the new company—until he discovered that Jobs meant to steal away five of Apple's best and brightest talents. The two had a final showdown, and Jobs resigned from Apple for good.
He sold off some Apple stock and founded NeXT Inc., announcing that the company would demolish Apple and IBM in the personal computer market. Despite the grand vision and a $20 million investment from Ross Perot, it went nowhere. Jobs was forced to shut down manufacturing. He became a symbol of the crash-and-burn cycle of high-flying technopreneurs, washed up while still a young man.
But in 1986, he quietly bought Pixar from George Lucas for a modest $10 million. All Pixar had was a technology to generate film images by computer. Slowly, Jobs pumped $50 million into the company. "I believed computer graphics were going to be very important in the future, and I saw the potential of what was happening at Pixar," he later said. Jobs once again proved his power as a visionary with his ability to recognize the potential of new technologies and bring them to market years before the rest of the world caught on.
On Nov. 29, 1995, buoyed by the success of the film Toy Story—the first major film of its kind produced entirely by Pixar's computers without a single photographic image—Jobs' new company debuted on the stock market. Opened at $22, the stock jumped to $49. Jobs' stake valued at $1.2 billion—making him the first "Siliwood" billionaire of the 1990s.
Meanwhile, NeXT is poised for a similar climb. The company has shifted its emphasis from hardware to software—and has helped develop new programs to increase the graphics and motion capabilities of Web pages. Early this year, Jobs predicted explosive growth for Internet technology: "The Internet reaches the most people, and no one owns it. That's why the most innovation is taking place there. It's close to what I can remember about the early days of the PC."
Keith Benjamin, an analyst with Robertson Stephens & Co. of San Francisco, worked with Jobs to put together the Pixar IPO. "There are very few people who have a vision and stick to it. Steve does," he says. "Five years from now, he'll probably create the next Disney."