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October 6, 2015

Jobs, Dell and now Dorsey: 5 tech CEO comebacks

Should a founder returns to a management role?

By Alexander Sword

With Jack Dorsey returning as CEO of Twitter, CBR decided to round up some of the founders of tech companies that have moved away from management then come back as CEO – with varying levels of success.


1. Jack Dorsey

Dorsey was Twitter’s CEO from when it was first spun off from Obvious, the company that he co-founded. He left the company in 2008 to found mobile payments company Square. Since July, Dorsey has filled in as interim CEO after the resignation of Dick Costolo.

Twitter had initially ruled out hiring Dorsey back while he remained CEO of Square, but has now abandoned this demand and allowed him to be CEO of both.


2. Michael Dell

Dell founded the company in the early 1980s as ‘PCs Limited’, which sold upgraded IT hardware. He was the CEO until 2004 when he remained as chairman but handed the CEO role over to Kevin Rollins. After a three-year hiatus, Dell returned in 2007 at the request of the board.

Recent years have seen a string of acquisitions and moves away from the core business towards software. In 2013 he took the company off the stock exchange in a leveraged buy-out alongside Silver Lake Partners.

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3. Steve Jobs

The return of Steve Jobs to Apple is legendary, earning the epithet among Apple fans of ‘The Second Coming’. After co-founding Apple in 1976, serving as chairman then being ousted in 1985 after a bitter struggle with CEO John Sculley, Jobs returned to the helm of Apple in 1997 when his subsequent venture NeXT was bought by the company.

Between then and his death in 2011, Jobs took the struggling personal computer seller and took it to the top of several markets, some which it popularised if not invented. The iPod, the iPhone and the iPad were the three most significant innovations in his second tenure.


4. Larry Page

Responsible for inventing PageRank, the search ranking algorithm, and co-founding the company, Page stepped aside as CEO to allow Eric Schmidt to take over the role in 2001. He led the Products division, spearheading the acquisition of Android in 2005 and drove the growth of the operating system in the following years.

In 2011, Page resumed his role as CEO. Since he has led the acquisition of Motorola Mobility and moved the company decisively into hardware with the ChromeBook. The name of Google’s holding company changed to Alphabet in August with Page becoming CEO and Sundar Pichai becoming CEO of Google.


5. Jerry Yang

Yang co-founded Yahoo! with David Filo while at Stamford University in 1994, in the early days of the commercial internet. After a $2 million investment from Sequoia Capital, Tim Koogle became the CEO while Yang and Filo were given the title of Chief Yahoo.

Unlike Steve Jobs, Yang’s second tenure at the top of Yahoo! was considered a failure. He turned down a $44 billion offer from Microsoft, claiming the company was undervalued before its value plunged to $22 billion. He was then ousted in favour of Carol Bartz.

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