I know what you’re thinking — because the story of Apple’s greatness over the past decade is not just about one man, there were loads of people responsible and I don’t want to claim all the credit for myself. But, um, no. It’s not that. If it were just that I’d have no problem at all.
Or maybe you’re thinking that it’s because I simply feel I don’t deserve the award, considering the way I was perhaps a little less than transparent with the media and to shareholders and tampered with stock awards and threw one of my best friends under a bus to save my ass. But, um, nope. Not that. Or maybe you think it’s just that I think it’s totally cool to turn down awards, which is true, I totally do think that. But again, that’s not the reason.
The problem is, when Adam from Fortune called and told Katie that they wanted to name me the CEO of the Decade, we all said exactly the same thing at the same time: Just a decade? We went back and forth on it for a while and finally Adam said his bosses just would not go along with calling me the CEO of the Century, since it would not even be clear which century we were talking about, and if it was the last century then what was the point of writing about it now, and the whole point was to do a story about the decade that is just ending, and we came back and said okay how about best CEO of the past quarter century, and again we got hit with this thing about the premise being just to talk about the decade that’s ending — so fine.
We went along, and we worked out terms, like: you can only say positive things, you can’t mention the liver, you can’t mention the cancer, you can’t mention the backdating, you can’t mention the G4 Cube, you can’t use pictures of me in this outfit or during my Rob Reiner-slash-Richard Dreyfuss phase, you can’t mention Microsoft or IBM or Google, you can’t do any riffs off the the “I’m a Mac” campaign, and so forth. They’re like, If we do all that what’s left for us to write about? Katie was like, Hey, You’re the ones who want to do a story, not us. And, also, here’s who you can talk to — Larry and Bill Campbell, and nobody else. No Steve, because he despises you. No Woz, because God knows what he’d come up with. No Gates, no Al Gore, no Bono. You get Larry Ellison and Bill Campbell, and you can only contact them via email, and we’re going to write their comments for them, and that’s it. Oh, and we get to read the whole story in advance and make any corrections.
So fine. Adam agrees to ground rules. And then what do he do? He calls Ken Segall, the ad guy who dresses like me and goes around taking credit for my work. Then he calls other people who talk on the condition of anonymity. He cribs some comments from books and magazine interviews, which, okay, doesn’t violate the letter of the agreement but certainly violates the spirit.
They send us the article and we’re like, No way. No. Fucking. Way. We send them our corrected version, which excises all the stuff that’s infringing, and you know what they do? They go, Thanks for the corrections, we’re going to run our original version instead. We remind them of our agreement and their lawyers say, Yeah, we said you could make corrections. We didn’t say we’d use them. So make all the corrections you want, but there’s nothing in the deal that says you can halt publication. We’re like, Yes there is. They’re like, No there isn’t, and besides, it was all verbal between you and Lashinsky and that agreement, frankly, isn’t worth the paper that it isn’t printed on.
So they fucked us. Katie is livid. One of her junior flacks tried to calm her down and said, Look, it’s a total puff piece, it’s a great story, most people would kill for coverage like this — and Katie had to be torn off her. It’s bad. Really.