Why GE passed on $2 billion Apple buy: Bob Wright

Bob Wright: Apple was outside our game

Apple has a market capitalization just north of $600 billion today, but just 20 years ago, General Electric could have had the company for a mere $2 billion, former NBCUniversal chief Bob Wright said Thursday.

The opportunity arose during a meeting with then Apple CEO Michael Spindler in 1996, Wright told CNBC's "Squawk Box." According to Wright, Spindler broke down in the middle of his presentation, lamenting that the stock was "killing him" and "the investors are on his back, and he can't get this thing rolling."

"The consensus in the room was we can't do anything with this. This is way outside of our game. We were not a Silicon Valley company," Wright said.

A customer holds boxes of the new Apple iPhone 6S while waiting to check out at an Apple store in Palo Alto, Calif.
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The encounter is chronicled in Wright's new book, "The Wright Stuff." The New York Post reported on it earlier Thursday. Wright stepped down at NBCUniversal before GE sold the company to Comcast.

The meeting occurred the year before Steve Jobs returned to Apple and transformed the company with products like the iMac personal computer, the iPod and the iPhone.

Wright said GE executives felt terrible they could not jump in to help. "We realized they had a lot going, but they weren't able to pull it off. And then they brought Jobs back in."

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC and