That spring Larry Ellison saw Amelio at a party and introduced

That spring Larry Ellison saw Amelio at a party and introduced him to the technology journalist Gina Smith, who asked how Apple was doing. “You know, Gina, Apple is like a ship,” Amelio answered. “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.” Smith looked perplexed and asked, “Yeah, but what about the hole?” From then on, Ellison and Jobs joked about the parable of

the ship. “When Larry relayed this story to me, we were in this sushi place, and I literally fell off my chair laughing,” Jobs recalled. “He was just such a

buffoon, and he took himself so seriously. He insisted that everyone call him Dr. Amelio. That’s always a warning sign.”

Brent Schlender, Fortune’s well-sourced technology reporter, knew Jobs and was familiar with his thinking, and in March he came out with a story detailing the mess. “Apple Computer, Silicon Valley’s paragon of dysfunctional

management and fumbled techno-dreams, is back in crisis mode, scrambling lugubriously in slow motion to deal with imploding sales, a floundering

technology strategy, and a hemorrhaging brand name,” he wrote. “To the Machiavellian eye, it looks as if Jobs, despite the lure of Hollywood—lately he

has been overseeing Pixar, maker of Toy Story and other computer-animated films—might be scheming to take over Apple.”

Once again Ellison publicly floated the idea of doing a hostile takeover and installing his “best friend” Jobs as CEO. “Steve’s the only one who can save Apple,” he told reporters. “I’m ready to help him the minute he says the

word.” Like the third time the boy cried wolf, Ellison’s latest takeover musings didn’t get much notice, so later in the month he told Dan Gillmore of the San Jose Mercury News that he was forming an investor group to raise $1 billion

to buy a majority stake in Apple. (The company’s market value was about $2.3 billion.) The day the story came out, Apple stock shot up 11% in heavy

trading. To add to the frivolity, Ellison set up an email address, [email protected], asking the

general public to

vote on whether

he should go

ahead with it.

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