Steve Jobs almost missed one of his biggest breaks.
BusinessWeek has a long feature today on Jobs’ years in the “wilderness” between 1985 and 1997, when he founded a rival computer company called NeXT and the movie studio Pixar.
He sold NeXT to Apple in 1997, which paved the way for his return as interim CEO, then permanent CEO. After that came the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad — the products for which he’s so revered today.
But the NeXT deal almost didn’t happen.
According to former NeXT executives, Jobs wasn’t paying much attention to Apple’s search for a new operating system, and didn’t think to shop his new company to his old one. In fact, he told friends he was prepared to let NeXT go bankrupt.
A marketing manager at NeXT decided to cal Apple to see might be interested in buying the NeXTStep software.
Jobs only found out about it “when he happened to call a NeXT colleague at the same moment that a team from Apple arrived for a NeXTStep demo,” says the story.
Talk about real-time serendipity.
Jobs quickly seized the reins, pulled off the sale for $430 million — beating out rival Be, which Apple was prepared to pay $130 million for — and eventually took over as Apple’s CEO. The rest is history.
See also: Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011.