When a technology columnist known for his critical views on Apple makes statements to the effect that the company should consider defining and publicly communicating a succession strategy, many Apple fans might consider the subject too close to home and inappropriate. It will generate heated discussion in the inside baseball crowd on the ZDNet TalkBacks, but that will be the end of it.
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But when the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, CNBC and Motley Fool take notice a month later, and the company's stock loses 10 percent of its market value in a single afternoon (which admittedly rebounded somewhat in late day trading) on the basis of an observation that Jobs wasn't present on a routine earnings call (which historically, he never attends, but that's not the crux of the matter at stake here) then it's not so inappropriate. It's not surprising what the real world impact on a company can be when it refuses to talk about the health of its most important executive who also happens to be its spiritual leader and guiding light, is it?
Look, if Steve Jobs's cancer has not resurfaced, then Apple needs to re-assure its investors that this is in fact the case -- not dismiss analysts with a blanket "Steve's health is a private matter" comment. Steve Jobs is the very symbol of Apple, its ideological compass and its chief visionary, for whatever talents and faults he has. His being there is absolutely critical to the company's success. So by dodging the question that everyone wants answered, it's going to make a lot of people nervous. VERY nervous. And if Steve really is very sick, then its critical that Apple nip this in the bud as soon as possible.
I've already said that a CEO succession plan must be made public. Not doing so is a disservice to its stockholders and the legions of Apple customers that are depending on his leadership. No Chief Executive could ever "Replace" Steve Jobs -- but all plans should be made public to demonstrate that the company is prepared to move forward without him should it become necessary.
Is Wall Street overreacting or does Apple need to come clean with Steve Jobs' health and produce a succession plan? Talk Back and let me know.
The postings and opinions on this blog are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.