Spindler 'finally ousted' from Apple

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The Independent Online
DAVID USBORNE

New York

The long-anticipated ousting of Michael Spindler as chief executive of Apple Computer appeared to have become reality yesterday, with several reports naming Gilbert Amelio of National Semiconductors Corp as his replacement.

National Semiconductors confirmed yesterday that Mr Amelio, widely respected as a master of corporate turnarounds, had tendered his resignation on Thursday and was moving to another company but would not identify it.

Apple was making no comment on reports that appeared in several US newspapers that both Mr Spindler and the chairman of the company, Mike Markkula, had been jettisoned during an emergency meeting of the company's board in New York on Wednesday.

The news appeared to muddy expectations of a buyout of Apple by Sun Microsystems, which has been engaged in on-off negotiations with the company since last September. Some sources suggested that the board's actions indicated that a sale to Sun Microsystems was no longer imminent.

Mr Spindler, who suffers from high blood pressure, has been blamed for the sudden decline in Apple's fortunes, which pioneered the marketing of easy-to-use personal computers in the 1970s. Analysts said he had been thrown overboard because he had lost the confidence of investors.

With speculation about the company's health intensifying, Apple yesterday took full-page advertisements in the UK press, signed by Mr Spindler, assuring customers that all was well. A similar campaign was run in the US media last week.

Apple recently announced restructuring plans that include the laying off of 1,600 workers. It had earlier recorded a $69m loss for its first fiscal quarter ending 29 December, which included the usually profitable Christmas retail season.

The first-quarter loss was the last straw in several months of bad news for Apple, which has seen its market share squeezed by the domination of the so-called Wintel computer standard, based on the Windows operating system of Microsoft and the chip technology of Intel Corp. Earlier this week, Apple's debt rating was cut to junk-bond status.

The height of concern among investors was underlined yesterday by James Cramer, president of Cramer & Co and owner of 321,000 Apple shares. He said he did not care now if Apple reached a merger deal with Sun Microsystems. "Just having Spindler out is worth a few bucks to me," he said.

While confirming Mr Amelio's resignation, National Semiconductor said it could offer no further information. "We have no announcement we can make," a spokeswoman said. "If there is another party involved, it's got to be their call".

The news of Mr Spindler's demise buoyed Apple shares in the Nasdaq in New York in morning trading yesterday, pushing them 62.5 cents higher to $29 by midday.

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