Former Sun CEOs recount plan to buy Apple in 1995

At a recent Churchill Club dinner in California, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy and former Sun CEO Ed Zander spoke candidly about Sun during its heyday in the 90s when it was poised to buy the then-struggling Apple.

Michael Spindler headed Apple at that point, and the company was on the downswing. It had licensed the Mac OS to Radius and Power Computing, faced the looming threat of Windows 95, and launched the ill-fated PowerBook 5300. Regarded as one of the worst Apple products of all-time, the 5300 was prone to catching fire due to a defective Sony battery and earned the nickname HindenBook.

Zander recalls the day when the leading server and enterprise company was hours away from buying Apple for about $5 to $6 a share. Sun was geared up to announce its acquisition at an upcoming analysts meeting, but an Apple investment banker got in the company's way at the last minute. McNealy says, "We wanted to do it. There was an investment banker on the Apple side, an absolute disaster, and he basically blocked it. He put so many terms into the deal that we couldn't afford to go do it."

This unnamed banker unknowingly changed the future of Apple. If Apple was acquired, would Sun have developed the iPod, iPhone and iPad? "No," said McNealy, "If we had bought Apple, there wouldn't have been iPods or iPads ... I'd have screwed that up."