Steve Jobs was the “anonymous party” that sold 1.5 million shares of Apple stock in 1997 causing Apple to hit a 12-year low in stock price. That event lead to a boardroom coup of CEO Gil Amelio and placed Steve Jobs as new CEO of Apple.
In 1994 Amelio joined the board of directors of Apple. After his resignation from National Semiconductor, Amelio became Apple CEO on February 2, 1996, succeeding Michael Spindler. His salary was a reported $990,000 plus bonuses and a $5 million loan. He also received approximately $100,000 for the use of his business jet by Apple the previous year according to the section “Certain Transactions” in the Apple Proxy Statement for 1996.
Amelio cited several problems at Apple including a shortage of cash and liquidity, low-quality products, lack of a viable operating system strategy, undisciplined corporate culture, and fragmentation in trying to do too much and in too many directions. To address these problems Amelio cut costs, reduced Apple’s work force by one third, discontinued the Copland operating system project, and oversaw the development of Mac OS 8.
To replace Copland and fulfill the need for a next generation operating system Amelio started negotiations to buy BeOS from Be Inc. but negotiations stalled when Be CEO Jean-Louis Gassée demanded $275 million; Apple was unwilling to offer more than $200 million. In November 1996 Amelio started discussions with Steve Jobs’ NeXT, and bought the company on February 4, 1997, for $429 million.
During Amelio’s tenure Apple’s stock continued to slump and hit a 12-year low in Q2 1997 that was at least partially caused by a single sale of 1.5 million shares of Apple stock on June 26 by an anonymous party who was later confirmed to be Steve Jobs. Apple lost another $708 million. On the July 4, 1997 weekend, Jobs convinced the directors to oust Amelio in a boardroom coup; Amelio submitted his resignation less than a week later; and Jobs then became interim CEO on September 16. In a 1997 interview with technology journalist Gina Smith, who asked him how Apple was doing, Jobs quoted Amelio as once saying:
You know, Apple is like a ship, that ship is loaded with treasure, but there’s a hole in the ship. And my job is to get everyone to row in the same direction.
It was reported that Amelio’s contract gave him about $3.5 million in severance pay, after a $2.3 million performance bonus in 1996.