Bill Campbell, one of the most influential background players in
Silicon Valley, who was known as “coach” there for his work
advising technology industry stars like Steve Jobs at Apple and
Larry Page at Google, died on Monday at his home in Palo Alto,
Calif. He was 75.
His family said the cause was cancer.
It’s almost impossible to overstate how influential Campbell was in Silicon Valley:
Mr. Campbell was an Eastman Kodak executive in Europe when he was
recruited to Silicon Valley in 1983 by Apple’s chief executive at
the time, John Sculley. Mr. Sculley named him vice president of
marketing. Mr. Campbell later played a significant role in Apple’s
spectacular turnaround when Steve Jobs, who had been fired by Mr.
Sculley, returned to the company in 1997. Apple went on to revamp
its Mac computer line and introduce the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Mr. Campbell was an Apple director from 1997 until 2014.
It was Mr. Doerr who brought Mr. Campbell to Google to serve as an
informal adviser to the two founders, Mr. Page and Sergey Brin.
Mr. Campbell was instrumental in the hiring of Eric Schmidt to be
Google’s chief executive in August 2001.
Strikingly, Mr. Campbell’s advisory role was often unpaid, at his
insistence; he said he wanted to pay back what he felt was a debt
to the nation’s technology region.
At Google, for example, he helped shape its leadership for a
generation or more but, except for a single stock grant, never had
a formal financial relationship with the company, according to Mr.
Schmidt, who is now Google’s chairman. “Google would not be the
company it is today without the influence of Bill Campbell,” Mr.
Schmidt said, “and my guess is Apple wouldn’t be, either.”
Mr. Campbell was deeply involved in Silicon Valley’s start-up
culture as well. In 1987 he led a group of Apple executives in
setting up a software subsidiary, Claris, with the ultimate goal
of spinning the company off as a start-up. When Apple decided not
to let Claris become a separate public company, many of the
executives, including Mr. Campbell, left.