5 Surprising Facts Revealed in ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In the three years since Steve Jobs passed away, there have been numerous books written about this legendary entrepreneur’s life. Perhaps the most famous of these books is Steve Jobs, an authorized biography that Walter Isaacson wrote with Jobs’s cooperation. Although the book was a best seller and is still widely considered the definitive Jobs biography, several Apple executives have since expressed their dislike of the book due to what they perceive as its narrow focus on the negative aspects of Jobs’s personality.

In contrast, a new biography by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli titled Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, has been praised by Apple executives for presenting a more accurate portrait of the company’s former CEO. In a recent tweet, Apple SVP of Internet software and services Eddy Cue described Becoming Steve Jobs as the “first [book] to get it right.”

“I thought the [Walter] Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in an excerpt of the new book published by Fast Company. “It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality. You get the feeling that [Steve’s] a greedy, selfish egomaniac.” Jony Ive — Apple’s design chief and a longtime personal friend of Jobs – has also expressed disdain for Isaacson’s book. “My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he told The New Yorker.

However, the new biography does more than just put a sunnier spin on the Jobs legend. As noted on the iTunes description page for Becoming Steve Jobs, the authors were granted unprecedented access to Jobs’s “family, former inner circle executives, and top people at Apple, Pixar and Disney,” who provided many previously unknown details about the Apple co-founder’s life. Here are five surprising facts revealed in Becoming Steve Jobs.  

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. Tim Cook once offered his liver to Steve Jobs

Probably the most shocking revelation to emerge from the new biography was the story that current Apple CEO Tim Cook once offered to donate part of his liver to Jobs. As noted by Fast Company, Jobs was on a waiting list for a liver transplant in 2009, but the seriousness of his condition made it seem unlikely that he would get a donor in time. Cook decided to get his blood tested and discovered that he and Jobs shared the same rare blood type. After undergoing a series of tests to determine if he was healthy enough to be a donor, Cook visited Jobs to make the offer. However, Jobs flatly refused.

As recalled by Tim Cook in an excerpt from Becoming Steve Jobs provided by Fast Company:

“Somebody that’s selfish,” Cook continues, “doesn’t reply like that. I mean, here’s a guy, he’s dying, he’s very close to death because of his liver issue, and here’s someone healthy offering a way out. I said, ‘Steve, I’m perfectly healthy, I’ve been checked out. Here’s the medical report. I can do this and I’m not putting myself at risk, I’ll be fine.’ And he doesn’t think about it. It was not, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ It was not, ‘I’ll think about it.’ It was not, ‘Oh, the condition I’m in . . .’ It was, ‘No, I’m not doing that!’ He kind of popped up in bed and said that. And this was during a time when things were just terrible. Steve only yelled at me four or five times during the 13 years I knew him, and this was one of them.”

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

2. Jobs entrusted the secret of his terminal cancer diagnosis to Disney CEO Robert Iger

In 2006, it was a well-known fact that Jobs had struggled with pancreatic cancer. However, most people at that time did not know that the cancer had returned. As Jobs stated in the commencement address he gave at Stanford University in June 2005, “I had the surgery and I’m fine now.”

On January 24, 2006, just a few minutes before Disney CEO Robert Iger was due to announce his company’s purchase of Pixar for $7.4 billion, Jobs revealed the true seriousness of his condition to him. As recalled by Robert Iger in an excerpt from Becoming Steve Jobs provided by Fast Company:

He says, “Frankly, they tell me I’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of living five years.”

“Are you telling me this for any other reason than wanting to get it off your chest?” I asked.

He says, “I’m telling you because I’m giving you a chance to back out of the deal.”

So I look at my watch, and we’ve got thirty minutes. In thirty minutes we’re going to make this announcement. We’ve got television crews, we’ve got the board votes, we’ve got investment bankers. The wheels are turning. And I’m thinking, We’re in this post Sarbanes-Oxley world, and Enron, and fiduciary responsibility, and he is going to be our largest shareholder, and I’m now being asked to bury a secret. He told me, “My kids don’t know. Not even the Apple board knows. Nobody knows, and you can’t tell anybody.”

While it seems incredible that Jobs would confide in another company’s CEO before his own children, the Apple co-founder felt he had to tell Iger due to the size of the Pixar acquisition. Jobs also intuitively trusted Iger, according to another excerpt provided by Fast Company. “I love that guy,” Jobs told his wife Laurene when they were discussing if Iger could be trusted to keep a secret.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Jobs considered buying Yahoo

Following the successful completion of the Pixar deal, Disney CEO Robert Iger and Steve Jobs became close friends. According to Fast Company, Jobs invited Iger to join Apple’s board and the two executives talked “three or four times a week.” Iger was even allowed inside Apple’s notoriously secretive design lab. While the Disney CEO was unable to join Apple’s board due to “fiduciary reasons,” he made a point of turning down a similar invitation from Google because he knew it would make Jobs “jealous.”

Although Iger was not officially part of Apple’s leadership, Jobs would often discuss potential deals with him. According to an excerpt from Becoming Steve Jobs that was seen by Cult of Mac, it was during one of these talks that the subject of buying Yahoo came up. While the deal obviously never happened, it is interesting to imagine what Apple might have accomplished with Yahoo’s assets, such as its search engine and email service.

Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Kimberly White/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

4. Jony Ive thought Jobs might fire him

As previously noted, Apple design chief Jony Ive was a longtime personal friend of Jobs. Steve Jobs even told biographer Walter Isaacson that “If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it’s Jony.” However, before Ive got to know Jobs, the designer thought that he might be fired as part of the company overhaul that Jobs implemented when he returned to Apple in 1997.

As described in an excerpt from Becoming Steve Jobs provided by Fast Company:

The first time Steve made the long trek over to the Design Lab, Ive was nervous and apprehensive. “That very first time we met, he had already started to talk about reengaging Harmut Esslinger [the founder of Frog Design, who had designed the first Mac],” Ive says. “He came over to the studio, I think, essentially to fire me.”

Instead, Jobs took an instant liking to Ive and concluded that his talents were being wasted. Ive went on to design some of Apple’s most iconic products, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. A recently published profile of Ive in The New Yorker described him as “one of the two most powerful people” now at Apple.

Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Angela Weiss/Getty Images

5. Jobs held a grudge against Neil Young

Although Becoming Steve Jobs presents an overall kinder, gentler version of Jobs than what was seen in Isaacson’s book, the authors still covered some anecdotes that showed glimpses of Jobs’s famously fiery temper. As noted by Fast Company, Neil Young was an outspoken critic of iTunes and the iPod due the compressed audio file formats used by Apple. Young’s criticisms apparently irritated Jobs enough for him to reject a peace offering from the legendary musician, according to a story recalled by co-author Brent Schlender via Fast Company:

I knew that Steve enjoyed listening to records on vinyl from time to time, so I agreed to call him to see if he’d like to get the LPs. Steve answered the phone on the second ring, and I explained what I was calling about. We had talked about Neil’s criticisms a year or so before, and I thought this might soften his grudge.

Fat chance. “Fuck Neil Young,” he snapped, “and fuck his records. You keep them.” End of conversation.

While Jobs was unwilling to accept Young’s gift of vinyl records, the rocker apparently learned to accept digital music. Neil Young went on to found PonoMusic, the company behind the high-resolution digital music player PonoPlayer.

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader is available in stores starting March 24.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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