Steven P. Jobs, the mercurial 30-year-old co-founder and chairman of Apple Computer Co., yesterday announced his resignation amid a growing dispute with the company over his plans to form a new computer venture.
Jobs' break with Apple followed his decision to launch the computer venture with five of Apple's top managers whom he had recruited.
In a letter to Apple Vice Chairman A. C. (Mike) Markkula Jr., Jobs said that " . . . the company appears to be adopting a hostile posture toward me and the new venture.
"Some company representatives have said they fear I will use proprietary Apple technology in my new venture. There is no basis for any such concern," Jobs added, calling himself "saddened and perplexed" by the company's response.
Markkula responded yesterday with a statement that Apple's board is considering what "possible actions should be taken to assure protection of Apple's technology and assets."
Markkula's statement also said Jobs had "implied he would not recruit any key personnel for his company" and indicated that the board still considered Jobs to be chairman and responsible for "acting in the best interests of the company."
Jobs said in the letter that he had tendered his resignation at an Apple board meeting last Thursday and told the board of his plans for the new venture. He added that he agreed to defer the action for a week at the board's request. At the time, the company's board actively considered investing in Jobs' new company, according to Jobs and Apple sources.
A day later -- last Friday -- Jobs revealed to Apple President and Chief Executive Officer John Sculley that he was hiring the five Apple managers and engineers. In his letter, Jobs said that Sculley "confirmed Apple's willingness to discuss areas of possible collaboration between Apple" and its former chairman.
Some Apple sources said the hirings were viewed as a raid. In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Apple Executive Vice President Delbert W. Yocam was quoted as saying, "I'm quite surprised that all this was being done while he [Jobs] was chairman and, furthermore, it would concern me if he gets into a business that's competitive with Apple."
Markkula's statement said that Apple's board considers the hiring of the five managers to be "in direct contradiction" to the assurances the board received on Thursday.
Jobs' quest to launch his venture came on the heels of a major Apple reorganization this May that effectively stripped the young chairman of all operating responsibilities. Jobs had been running the company's Macintosh personal computer group.
The reorganization, engineered by Sculley, was prompted by Apple's sagging sales and profit picture and by Apple board members who were concerned with Jobs' role in the company, according to Apple sources. According to some reports, Jobs had tried and failed to force a showdown with Sculley before the company's board.
At an analyst's meeting this summer, Sculley further emphasized that Jobs had no active role at Apple.
Jobs' new product reportedly would be powerful new computers targeted for the educational marketplace -- a market of current interest to Apple.
Since July, Jobs has sold more than 1.3 million shares of his Apple stock valued at roughly $21 million, presumably to help finance his new venture. Jobs, who co-founded the pioneering personal computer company with Stephen Wozniak in a California garage and helped build it into a multibillion-dollar multinational organization, was also the driving force behind the company's Macintosh computer, whose sales have not reached the company's expectations.