Monday, June 22, 2009

Steve Jobs And Succession

(image via macdailynews)

What's up with Steve Jobs? Years ago, in another life, this blogger was editor at MacDirectory, a small consumer electronics magazine that focused on the Apple market. During that time we learned that Apple, Inc. is an iconic multibillion dollar American brand with a rabid following of creative bohemian types. We also learned that Steve Jobs was and is reluctant to choose a successor.

There is an almost tyrannical sort of quality about this ham-fistedness, this inability to look to the future wellbeing of the company, to recognize his own mortality. Jobs' vice-like grip on the levers of power may have something to do with the fact that he founded the company, was dismissed by Scully in the 80s, and returned, in power and glory, from the wilderness to replenish his ailing company. Jobs -- who we cannot fail to note was adopted -- is determined never to be blindsided again in that manner. It sounds, childhood to adult insecurity, like many African economies in the early 80s.

The Mac-enthusiasts may be okay with Steve's benign tyrany, but should shareholders? Few publicly-traded companies are so tied to their CEOs as is Apple's "cult of Steve." At the very least shareholders have a right to know if the WSJ report that Jobs had a liver transplant over the weekend are true. From Bloomberg:

"While Apple’s directors don’t need to give updates on Jobs’s health while he is on leave, that could change if he comes back as CEO, said Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware.

"'In the interests of transparency, I think it would be necessary for them to disclose something as serious as a liver transplant,' Elson said. 'Investors want to know if he’s healthy and if he can continue to run the company.'"

Maybe, just maybe this might lead to a discussion of whether or not Steve Jobs should consider his mortality and the degree to which the company's popularity satellites his personality, and begin the process of grooming the next host at MacWorld.

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