How Apple Dodged a Sun Buyout: Former Execs McNealy, Zander Tell All

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-02-25 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

At a Churchill Club dinner, former Sun executives Scott McNealy and Ed Zander discuss why the company didn't buy Apple in 1996, the real beginnings of cloud computing and why Linux should never have come into existence.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Would there be iPhones, iPads and iPods on the market today if Sun Microsystems had been able to close a deal to buy out Apple in the mid-1990s? 

No, says former Sun CEO Scott McNealy. "If we had bought Apple, there wouldn't have been iPods or iPads ... I'd have screwed that up," McNealy conceded in a talk Feb. 24 with another former Sun top executive, ex-President Ed Zander, at a Churchill Club dinner at the Santa Clara Convention Center. 

McNealy (pictured) and Zander, headline speakers at the event, talked about their years at Sun when that company was one of the world's top producers of servers, workstations, data storage systems and Unix data center software. It also had a healthy enterprise processor business with its Sparc architecture.

A Wall Street darling in the 1980s and '90s, Sun fell on hard times in the 2000s and ultimately was bought by Oracle in January 2010 for $7.4 billion.  

But there was a time when Sun, at its wealthiest, was poised to buy Apple when it was at the lowest point in its storied history. 

"Back in late 1995 early '96, when we were at our peak, we were literally hours away from buying Apple for about $5 to $6 a share," said Zander, who had built Sun's software business into a powerhouse and was rewarded with promotion to president by his mentor, McNealy. 

"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. 




 
 
 
 
Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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