Fortune

HOW STEVE JOBS BECAME A BILLIONAIRE

STEVE JOBS’ NAME IS FOREVER TIED TO APPLE: THE COMPANY HE FOUNDED, WAS FIRED FROM, AND LATER RETURNED TO AND MADE THE MOST VALUABLE IN THE WORLD. IT’S EASY TO FORGET THAT IT WAS ANOTHER COMPANY—PIXAR—THAT MADE HIM HIS FIRST BILLION. CENTRAL TO THAT STORY IS LAWRENCE LEVY, THE MAN WHOM JOBS REACHED OUT TO, UNKNOWN, IN NOVEMBER 1994 AND HIRED AS CFO. HIS MISSION? TO TAKE THE SCRAPPY COMPANY PUBLIC.

I ARRIVED AT PIXAR IN FEBRUARY 1995. STEVE DIDN’T GIVE ME ANY SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS FOR WHAT TO DO FIRST. Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, greeted me and, over the first couple of days, walked me around the company, introducing me to the key players and describing my role.

Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and greeted me with polite gestures like: “Glad you’re here, let me know if I can help.” Something was missing though. For as much as people were friendly and polite, I also felt they were a bit distant and aloof. There didn’t seem to be a lot of excitement that Pixar had a new chief financial officer. I had the deep sense that Pixar’s guard was up, and I didn’t know why.

It didn’t take me long to find out. It started with Pam Kerwin, a Pixar vice president who was general manager of various business operations within Pixar. She was a little older than me, in her early forties, with striking red hair and a sweet demeanor that quickly made others feel at ease around her. Her office was just down the hallway from mine, and she was one of the few people who invited me to say hello and give me the lay of the land.

“I don’t envy you,” Pam jumped in after some pleasantries, “I don’t think you really get what you’re up against.”

“Up against?” I asked.

“You’re Steve’s guy.”

I must have given Pam a terribly puzzled look, because I wasn’t sure what she meant.

“Pixar and Steve have a long history,” she went on. “Not a good one. You don’t know it yet, but Pixar lives in fear of Steve.”

“How so?”

“Steve doesn’t get Pixar,” Pam went on. “We’re artsy and creative. We’re like a family. We hug. And we’re not a top-down organization; everyone here has a voice.”

The strength of Pam’s emotions about Steve caught my attention.

“Steve is the guy who owns us—but he’s

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