Update: The original source of this story, Bloomberg, contained a misquote as Schmidt did not claim, after all, that he couldn’t stand Apple’s board.
In a recent interview at the Dreamforce 2011 conference, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt explained that he stayed on Apple’s Board of Directors until he “couldn’t stand the board anymore.” Schmidt’s comments came during a Q&A session with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff – earlier this week we profiled how Steve Jobs helped influence Benioff and why he chose to give Apple the trademark rights to ‘app store’.
As for Jobs, Schmidt heaped praise upon the former Apple CEO.
What Steve has done at Apple is certainly the best performance of a CEO for over fifty years, maybe a hundred years. But not only did he do it once, he did it twice. We’ve all benefited from the extraordinary innovation at Apple. And I say this as a very proud former board member at Apple.
Schmidt also mentioned he was proud of his role as an Apple director but didn’t flesh out why he “couldn’t stand the board anymore” and if his statement was in reference to the personalities on the board or perhaps his limited role. We’d guess the latter.
While the idea of Eric Schmidt serving on Apple’s board might seem laughable today, the two companies used to be more allies than than they were rivals and shared an interest in taking on Microsoft. But once Google started getting into the smartphone market, the dynamics of the relationship changed immediately.
Famously, Jobs was furious when he saw what Google was up to with Android and reportedly laid into Schmidt with quite a few expletives as a result. Before long, it became apparent that keeping Schmidt on board raised a host of conflict of interest issues. Consequently, Schmidt in August of 2009 stepped down from Apple’s Board of Directors.
Steve Jobs explained in a press release at the time:
Eric has been an excellent Board member for Apple, investing his valuable time, talent, passion and wisdom to help make Apple successful. Unfortunately, as Google enters more of Apple’s core businesses, with Android and now Chrome OS, Eric’s effectiveness as an Apple Board member will be significantly diminished, since he will have to recuse himself from even larger portions of our meetings due to potential conflicts of interest. Therefore, we have mutually decided that now is the right time for Eric to resign his position on Apple’s Board.
Indeed, following the resignation, a report surfaced claiming that Steve Jobs hates Schmidt not only for their entry into the smartphone arena but for what Jobs views as Schmidt’s backstabbing. Still that didn’t stop the two tech luminaries from grabbing a cup of coffee 7 months later to discuss only god knows what.