Steve: Always Value Conscious
One frigid winter day in the late 1970s, I ran into Steve at some meeting in midtown Manhattan, a time and event now long forgotten. What isn't forgotten is that when the meeting ended and we went outside into the freezing weather, I was reasonably comfortable in my wool overcoat, but Steve was freezing. No overcoat, not even a jacket.
I suggested that he buy a coat. He agreed. So off we went to Paul Stuart, my favorite men's store, just a few blocks away on Madison Avenue. After quickly trying on a few, he picked one. He then asked the salesman the price.
"That much for an overcoat? Too much. Besides, I'll never use it in California."
We left the store. I in my overcoat, warm. Steve coatless, freezing.
At my 1980 retirement from Morgan Stanley party, Palo Alto
Investor... Mentor... Estranged
Mike Markkula was an Intel product marketing manager when I first met him around 1970. An early Intel employee with sizable stock options and lots of other interests, he retired wealthy in the early 1970s.
Mike discovered Steve Jobs at a 1975 meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club. When the two Steves -- Jobs and Wozniak -- formed Apple Computer in 1976, Mike financed them with a $91,000 equity investment. For this, he ended up with one-third the company. It turned out to be a profitable investment.
In late 1977, I recall two introductions, one product and one personal. Apple introduced the Apple II personal computer, and Mike introduced me to Steve Jobs.
Mike and Steve were close, very close, for 10 years. But the friendship collapsed after the well-known 1985 schism at Apple when Steve was fired from the company he co-founded. Since then, as far as I know, the two had no contact.
The Odd Couple
In the spring of 1980, toward the end of my five-year association with Morgan Stanley as a technology analyst, I initiated a meeting that remains indelible in my memory. I introduced Morgan Stanley to Apple Computer. Or rather, I introduced Bob Baldwin to Steve Jobs.
For those of you unfamiliar with Robert H.B. Baldwin, let me tell you a little about him. A summa graduate of Princeton, three-sport varsity athlete, Undersecretary of the Navy, member of Augusta National, banker to the Fortune 500, and Chairman of Morgan Stanley -- and not to mention, the owner of two middle initials. The epitome of the white-shoe Wall Streeter. In other words, the un-Steve Jobs.
The occasion for their meeting was a computer show being held at the New York Hilton Hotel, just three blocks north of Morgan Stanley headquarters on Avenue of the Americas. Apple was exhibiting its modest product line, the Apple II and Apple III, and Steve was manning the booth.
Morgan Stanley at the time acted as investment banker only for the crème de la crème of American and international business: AT&T, General Motors, DuPont, General Electric, IBM, Merck, Standard Oil, et al. No pipsqueak start-ups for them.
But the winds of economic change were being recognized even in the hallowed halls of Morgan Stanley. There were some in the firm who perceived that the second industrial revolution -- information technology -- might soon create some major new industries, new companies, and new investment banking opportunities.
After what must have been a lively partners meeting in early 1980, the firm decided to compete for underwriting the forthcoming Apple IPO. And who better to sell the merits of Morgan Stanley than Bob Baldwin? Well, as it turned out, maybe others would have been better. Nonetheless, Bob is the partner I took to meet Steve Jobs.
My role? For the three preceding years, I had been the self-anointed evangelist of personal computers in general and Apple in particular on Wall Street and at Morgan Stanley. I used to take my Apple II on visits to clients, trying to demonstrate that this playful-looking product had a potential far greater than its then perception as a toy for hobbyists and gamesters.
Besides proselytizing the financial community, I also spent a lot of time singing the PC's praises to influencers and journalists. As Mike Moritz (now of Sequoia Capital) wrote in his book, The Little Kingdom:
The reporters who trooped through Rosen's New York office found that he was using an Apple. So Rosen became, in some ways, Apple's most influential sponsor... one of Apple's best salesman.
But Morgan Stanley was a particularly tough sell. Before they would approve purchase of an Apple II for me (so I wouldn't have to cart the one Apple gave me between home and office), I had to prove to the IT department that a PC could do something that their mainframes couldn't do.
So I did. And it took just one demo. In a meeting before the IT staff, I opened a beta version of VisiCalc, the world's first practical spreadsheet. It was a new application just created by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston that was available only on PCs (and initially, only on Apples). I populated the rows and columns with a financial model (something that bankers could understand), changed the value of one cell, then hit the recalc key. The value of every cell in the worksheet was instantly recalculated. "Wow" resounded throughout the room. They had never seen anything like this before. Their resistance melted, their approval was given, and a Morgan Stanley check was cut to purchase one Apple II for me.
So I was the "Apple guy" at Morgan Stanley, the one who had known Steve Jobs for the last three years. Moritz writes:
[At Apple] Rosen was given the sort of customer service reserved for sheikhs and princes. When he didn't understand some feature of the Apple...he called Jobs or Markkula at home.
Thus, I became the designated go-between.
Baldwin and I walked to the Hilton, ascended the escalator to the ballroom floor, where trade shows were domiciled, and headed directly to the modest Apple booth.
"Steve, meet Bob Baldwin. Bob, Steve."
For the next 20 minutes, the following weird situation took place: Steve engaged in a monologue about how insanely great the Apple PCs were, and simultaneously Bob delivered his own monologue of why Morgan Stanley was the nonpareil banker of the financial world. Neither seemed to listen to, nor care about, what the other was saying. Steve had no clue about investment banking, and Bob's total knowledge of computers was that Morgan Stanley had some. Yet strange as this dialog between monologists was, somehow Morgan Stanley ended up as the lead underwriter. Apple went public in December, 1980, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Incidentally, intoxicated by the success of the Apple offering, Morgan Stanley modified its historical big-company strategy and went on to become one of the leading technology bankers, a leadership position that continues to this day.
A Mac By Any Other Name
A couple of years before the January 1984 introduction of the Mac, Steve convened an offsite meeting of the Macintosh Division in Monterey. I had been invited by Steve to attend and make a presentation to the group. Here's how Mike Moritz captured some of that session in The Little Kingdom:
After dinner, someone who looked like a demure orthodontist, with thinning silver hair and owl-eyed spectacles, performed what, in computer circles, amounted to a cabaret act. The figure wearing a Mac T-shirt over a long-sleeved dress shirt was Ben Rosen. He had turned a reputation gained as a Wall Street electronics analyst, the industrious publisher of an informative, sprightly newsletter, and host of annual personal-computer conferences into a career as a venture capitalist. Before he started investing in computer companies his comments had been sought as much as his ear.
For the Mac group Rosen worked from a casual script of observations, wisecracks, tips, and industry gossip...He talked about low-priced home computers... Some of the frivolous rustle disappeared when Rosen started to talk about IBM whose personal computer had been providing severe competition for Apple. He admitted to being impressed by a recent visit to IBM's Personal Computer Division in Boca Raton and described what he thought were its plans for three new personal computers. Then he looked around the room and said... "Mac is your most offensive and defensive weapon. I haven't seen anything that compares to it."
He quizzically mentioned another industry rumor: "One of the things going around Wall Street is an IBM-Apple merger."
"IBM already said they weren't for sale," Randy Wigginton, a young blond programmer, shot back.
"We have a crisis looming," Jobs told Rosen, from the back of the room. "We've got to decide what to call Mac. We could call it Mac, Apple IV, Rosen I. How's Mac strike you?"
"Throw thirty million dollars of advertising at it," Rosen said, "and it will sound great."
Mac it was named.
But, oh, what might have been...
The Industry Change That Didn't Happen
In 1999, Compaq was going through a management crisis. The board appointed me Acting CEO in April. Midway through my four-month tenure I received a call from Steve requesting that we get together to discuss an "important matter."
Curious, I flew to the Bay Area, and met Steve at an Indian restaurant in Menlo Park. It was a haunt of his; he could always get great vegetarian meals there.
After we finished with the amenities and reminiscences, we got to the purpose of the meeting. Steve wanted Compaq to offer the Apple operating system on its PC line, adding to the Microsoft OS that had always been our sole OS. At the time, Compaq was the world's largest manufacturer of PCs. Our adopting the Apple OS would be seen as a feather in Apple's cap (and a pretty visible slap at Microsoft).
The catching up with Steve was fun, the food was great, but the OS idea never gained traction. Upon further analysis, it didn't make sense for either Compaq or Apple. Compaq wasn't about to declare war on Microsoft, our partner from our birth in 1982, and Steve had second thoughts about licensing their crown jewels.
Unknown meeting circa 1981
The Western Electronic Manufacturers Association used to hold annual industry conferences in Monterey. Steve keynoted one of the conferences in the early 1980s. But rather than tout the greatness of Apple, or the potential of personal computers, or anything material or mundane , Steve spoke passionately for 40 minutes on one subject -- the dangers of nuclear warfare. That was it.
The audience, needless to say, was dumbfounded. Steve spoke, took no questions, and sat down.
Steve, it turns out, had a lot of passions.
Easy Come, Easy Go
In 1979, the year before Apple went public, Mike Markkula called to offer me the opportunity to buy $1 million worth of Apple stock. I thought about it, considered it, and ultimately declined. Why? I felt it would compromise me. Even though Apple was a private company then, I was writing about it regularly in my capacity as a securities analyst. I knew it would soon become a public company. As such, I felt that meaningful stock ownership would affect my judgment on the stock.
In retrospect, I was somewhat over-cautious. Indeed, judging by the ethical standards of Wall Street of the last decade, I must look like some kind of nut.
So what did I forego? Apple stock is up about 150 times from its IPO price, adjusted for splits, and maybe 500 times from the price I was offered.
But, in the words of Edith Piaf, Je ne regrette rien.
My Last Contact With Steve
The year is 2007. Steve Jobs is now on the top of the world. He had created or transformed at least five fields -- computers, music, animated film-making, telephony, and industrial design. In June 2007, I decided to email him after having had no contact for eight years. I just wanted him to know that I had happily returned to the Apple fold after two decades in the desert. I didn't expect a reply.
A few weeks later, to my surprise, I did receive a response. I was touched to hear from him, and touched by what he wrote.
From: Benjamin M. Rosen
Subject: 30 years later -- from Ben Rosen
Date: June 4, 2007 9:06:02 AM EDT
To: Steve Jobs
When you created and then showed me the Apple II in late 1977, little did I know how much it would change my life -- to a much more exciting one.
Well, after a 20-plus year interlude with that other OS (necessitated by my Compaq involvement), I thought you'd be pleased to know that for the last few years I've returned to my roots. I'm once again an avid Apple user and evangelist.
Imagine, Ben Rosen, former Compaq Chairman, now a Mac enthusiast!
From: Steve Jobs
Subject: Re: 30 years later -- from Ben Rosen
Date: August 1, 2007 7:58:57 PM EDT
To: Benjamin M. Rosen
Sorry for my delayed reply - I was on a much needed family vacation for the past three weeks.
Wow - this news makes my day! I'm glad to hear it. I hope you like what we've done with the Mac. I'm biased, of course, but I think it's light years ahead of Windows.
How are you doing? We haven't seen each other in years, but I remember the times we spent together very fondly.
All the best,
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to think that on August 1, 2007, I made Steve Jobs' day.
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