Icahn spoke by phone this week with Cook, and then announced he had taken a large position in the tech company, which has been in the doldrums.
Sculley, who was Apple's chief from 1983 until 1993, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that he thinks Icahn's purchase was to take advantage of an undervalued stock rather than as a long-term investment.
"I doubt if Steve Jobs would have taken Carl Icahn's call or anyone else who is an activist. I think it's a lot about financial engineering," he said. "The bigger story for Apple is always going to be growth and it's going to be about creative leaps in products. It's been dark for a while without any big creative leap, and I think there's a lot of expectation that there are some big things coming."
On Apple's products, Sculley suggested that the company's next leap would be wearable technology, such as the much-discussed smart watch, which could allow consumers to make purchases with their credit card through the device.
"I think Apple has been given a bad rap for a while," Sculley said. "It's a stock that is ready to show some growth if Tim Cook is able to deliver on the products which he has set expectations for and I am pretty optimistic."
Sculley said he saw the recently released biopic "Jobs" on Thursday night. He said it was "very loose on the facts" because of a "not really fair" portrayal of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. However, he said that Ashton Kutcher effectively channeled Jobs' personality.
Sculley said the film helps to clear up a particular "misunderstood fact." Many believe that he fired Jobs, and "the movie shows that I never actually did," he said.