wozniak.jpg
Wozniak (credit)

Here’s our story in the Mercury News today about the trio of former Apple Computer executives who are riding on the reputation of the famous company’s brand, and have created a new shell public company, Acquicor, that will shop to acquire technology properties.

Acquicor is quite an extraordinary story, for a few reasons. It is led by former Apple Chief Executive Gilbert Amelio, who was ousted from Apple in 1997; co-founder Steve Wozniak, who is now an entrepreneur running a Mountain View wireless start-up called Wheels of Zeus (WOZ); and Ellen Hancock, who was chief technology officer, also until 1997.

First reason it is remarkable: Acquicor raised $150M yesterday in its IPO, even though these three folks are the company’s only employees. The company is a so-called blank-check company, meaning it will basically write checks for technology assets. Its credibility rests entirely on the reputation, experience and network of the three executives.

Second reason it is remarkable: These guys are already leading extremely busy lives. Read our story, although we didn’t have enough space in our Merc story to list all of their jobs and board seats. Read the SEC prospectus for full details. Amelio, the CEO, has a full time job as CEO of another company (perhaps he is trying to keep up with Steve Jobs, who is now CEO of Apple and, until Disney’s acquisition, CEO of Pixar?)

Third reason it is remarkable: The execs are indeed big names, and each one of them are undoubtedly highly respected, but how much have they really proven recently? It is noteworthy how former success here in Silicon Valley can live on in perception. There is a saying among reporters in the news business: “You’re only as good as your last story.” In former days, some veteran reporters just got so “tired” in their later years that people began to wonder how good these icons really were — even if they’d written brilliant stories during their dashing youth. Of course, technology is a different business. And we are not saying here that these three are tired. It is just that usually a public company has to jump through quite a few hoops on the way to prove itself, and its management. Sales, for one, would be nice. In this case, no sales. And Apple’s phenomenal success with the iPod, a product ushered in under Steve Jobs, is a relatively new phenom. People forget Apple was struggling back in the late 1990s. To be fair, Amelio’s ouster from Apple may have perhaps been more to do with a cultural misfit. But for these three to be making strategic technology decisions in a world that is vastly different than when they cut their teeth two decades ago, and with so little proof that they can work now as a team, makes us muse.