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Apple ex-CEO John Sculley is enjoying a revival

John Sculley
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

John Sculley is back.

It's been more than two decades since the former Apple CEO was pushed out of the computer maker. A decade earlier, he vacated the top job at Pepsi to join Apple when founder Steve Jobs recruited him.

Now, the 21st century Sculley is showing some mojo of his own.

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Sculley co-founded fast-growing fitness tracker Misfit Wearables, which raised $40 million in December. And on Wednesday, big data marketing software company Zeta Interactive, where Sculley is co-founder and vice chairman, announced a financing round of $125 million in equity and debt.

The new funding from GSO Capital Partners (a unit of Blackstone Group) values New York-based Zeta at more than $1 billion, according to sources familiar with the transaction who asked not to be named because the valuation isn't being disclosed.

"I've been around several companies that grow steadily and then reach an inflection point that fuels massive growth," Sculley told CNBC. "The convergence of market trends toward digital and data-driven marketing, the emergence of mobile and this round of capital positions Zeta to grow at a much more rapid clip and accomplish great things."

Sculley's endeavors

71615 sculley levy

Company Industry Position
800razors.comconsumer"advisor investor"
FlexPharmabiotech"advisor investor"
Inflexionpointprivate equityco-founder
MDLIVEhealth"vice-chairman investor"
Misfit Wearablesdevices"co-founder investor"
Obi Connectdevicesco-founder
OpenPeaksoftware"board member investor"
PDQ foodchairman
Pivot TechnologyIT serviceschairman
Real McCoy Rumbeverageschairman
3C Interactivesoftwarechairman
Watermark Medicalhealth"vice-chairman investor"
Zeta Interactivesoftware"co-founder vice-chairman"

Sculley started Zeta in 2007 with CEO David Steinberg as a marketing company under a different name. The pair shifted the business to software and changed the name to Zeta from XL Marketing in 2014.

Through acquisitions and internal development, Zeta has built technology that helps businesses target consumers online. It's a hypercompetitive market, but Steinberg says Zeta's strength is in tying promotions all the way through to a purchase. That cuts marketing costs by at least 25 percent.

"By having the ability to attribute marketing not to a click but to sale, it allows us to substantially better target going forward," Steinberg said.

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Revenue topped $100 million last year and will surpass $200 million in 2015, he noted. The company has made nine acquisitions, mostly of small businesses generating a few million dollars each in revenue.

Sculley isn't on the Zeta management team, but Steinberg said he's very involved in the operations.

According to Sculley's LinkedIn profile, he's a busy man. He's an investor, director or co-founder with 13 companies, including beverage maker Real McCoy Rum, restaurant chain PDQ and shaving company 800Razors.com.

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In 2012, Sculley co-founded Misfit, a Burlingame, California-based maker of low-cost wearables. The Misfit Shine is a $100 activity and sleep tracker, and the Flash costs half that price.

Sculley was CEO of Pepsi from 1977 to 1983 and spent the next 10 years at Apple; his Rolodex is priceless.

"If we need to get to somebody, if there's a [chief marketing officer] we need to get to, he can get us there," Steinberg said. "He understands the marketing ecosystem better than anybody."