Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

Summary: Apple's shareholder meeting is likely to celebrate stellar returns, hit products like the iPad and even Steve Jobs' birthday Feb. 24. However, the company is likely to be pushed on succession planning as worries about the CEO's health resurface.

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Apple's shareholder meeting is likely to celebrate stellar returns, hit products like the iPad and even Steve Jobs' birthday Feb. 24. However, the company is likely to be pushed on succession planning as worries about the CEO's health resurface.

The company's annual shareholder powwow is set for 10 a.m. PST on Wednesday. The biggest item on the agenda is succession planning. Jobs last month took a medical leave, but remains CEO. Tim Cook, chief operating officer, takes over the day-to-day operations at Apple.

In the meantime, Jobs is focusing on his health and Apple's strategic decisions such as the latest subscription plan at the App Store, which has created a good bit of hubbub.

A pension fund, however, wants more detail on Apple's succession plan. Apple says coughing up those details takes away its competitive edge.

What's unclear is whether this succession plan proposal takes on greater urgency amid tabloid reports that Jobs' health is deteriorating. The National Enquirer reported that Jobs health is in decline and the CEO has a few weeks to live. Of course, this report is a bit of a stretch given it was based on a doctor who never saw Jobs and was making a prediction based on a photo of the CEO's butt.

Now Radar Online has video of Jobs leaving a restaurant and he's struggling to get into a car. The coverage leaves me squeamish. After all, it's not like we see Jobs walk around all day. He could have been walking like that for months, maybe years. Besides, shouldn't Jobs just be left to care for his health? In any case, Jobs was at a dinner with President Obama last week.

The rub here is that Jobs is a public figure and shareholders want information. It's a fine line to walk. In any case, these tabloid reports seem perfectly timed to put succession planning on the front burner at Apple.

A few observations ahead of Apple's meeting:

  • On the product front, Apple isn't going to miss a beat. The iPad 2 appears to be ready for lift-off, a MacBook Pro refresh is likely to land tomorrow and the iPhone 4 is humming along at the two largest carriers in the U.S.
  • The management bench at Apple is deep. Apple has done a good job over the last two years highlighting executives other than Jobs. If you believe Apple is Jobs you're a fool. No man could propel Apple this far by himself.
  • It's unknown whether Jobs' DNA is in Apple. Unfortunately, we won't know whether Jobs soul lives on through Apple until he's gone. But other executives have done it. Sam Walton still powers Wal-Mart and founders methods can carry on at companies. Is there any question that Walt Disney's DNA is sprinkled throughout Disney? It could be a similar situation with Jobs. Here's to hoping we don't find out anytime soon.

Topics: Health, Apple, CXO, Legal, IT Employment

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22 comments
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  • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

    I would guess the CEO job will go to Tim Cook if it comes down to it since he's already got the experience of running Apple while Steve is out. Did Gizmodo really write up a story based on the National Enquirer? Do they not know what that magazine is? I'll have to start avoiding Gizmodo.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @Loverock Davidson

      For once I have to concur, that was a pretty low blow on Gizmodo's part putting up a picture of Steve Jobs when the world knows he's ailing.

      It's almost as low a blow as No Ax To Grind bringing Job's daughter into the discussion during one article about a year or so back when it had nothing to do with his kids.

      Leave the personal stuff to the people's lives, we are discussing IT in here...you want personal crap, go watch TMZ.
      Ron Burgundy
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @Loverock Davidson I totally agree, and yes, they published the pics from the Enquirer!!!
      smmatuschak
    • Lately, the National Enquirer has as much credibility as a NY Times

      and other media sources when you consider that The National Enquirer has broken a few big stories and the regular national media has opted to ignore those stories. Remember the John Edwards story? That's a man who actually ran for president. Where was the national media in that "big" story?

      The Jobs "speculation" could turn out to be just that, but, Jobs hasn't been in good health in the last few years, and he has undergone cancer treatments. So, again, the Enquirer might be ahead of the curve. Not that I want Jobs gone, but, all sides of a story need to be known, especially when so many people make their investment decisions based on one person.
      adornoe
  • Avoiding Gizmodo is smart

    They have always been of Shady Journalistic character. The iPhone thing cemented it in my mind and I have avoided them since.
    itguy08
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @itguy08 The iPhone leak thing was fair game in my mind... They gave it back. This is what cemented it for me.
      snoop0x7b
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @itguy08 Same here, and no way that iPhone stint was at all innocent or legal...
      smmatuschak
  • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

    Apple does have a plan. That's really all they need to say because a change in a different executive could cause the plan to be modified.

    And Steve Jobs has now imprinted his DNA in Apple as much as Walt Disney ever did at Disney.
    Ken_z
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @Ken_z
      And Steve Jobs has now imprinted his DNA in Apple as much as Walt Disney ever did at Disney.


      That sounds dirty...
      Cyrorm
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @Ken_z
      For that matter, there's just about as much of Jobs' DNA at Disney too.
      MC_z
      • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

        @MC_z Not enough to get the 3d rendering studios off of linux ;)
        snoop0x7b
  • Ron Burgundy posting a cordial response to his arch-nemesis,

    Loverock? This makes my day. :)

    Seriously, this personality cult around Steve Jobs has gone too far. It's given the general public a distorted image of how Apple operates as a company, and it's certainly unwise to its shareholders to associate so much of their fortunes to one man's well-being.

    Job's got more than his share of credit where it was already due, now let's just leave the man alone in peace.
    Tech watcher
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @Tech watcher

      Well, it has to do with someone's health and that's not subject to tabloid rag journalism here.

      How many reports that Michael Douglas was about to kick the bucket, and then all of a sudden there he is on the talk circuit doing fine.
      Ron Burgundy
  • COO !== CEO

    I've never met Tim Cook, but in general the kind of guy who makes a good COO is not the same guy you want setting strategic direction. COOs make the trains run on time. People who are good at that are detail-oriented and focused on near-term results. They're typically not so good at deciding where the tracks should be built.
    Robert Hahn
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @Robert Hahn Perhaps Cook and his colleagues haven't been given their chances yet to articulate their strategic direction, or perhaps their vision is taking some time to be fully realized.

      In a sense we are still dwelling on the "dark" days more than a decade ago, when Sculley and Amelio ran the company in Job's absence. They were blamed for a lack of vision, perhaps correctly so, perhaps not -- Apple was not exactly in total ruins when Jobs returned.

      But is it right to focus on the merits of one executive now, this far already in Apple's current entrenched plans? Consider the new subscription-fee model, the momentum of their dominance in the emerging tablet market...the die has already been rolled for the next few business cycles.
      Tech watcher
  • Bring back the Woz!

    Wozniak should replace him, but be the anti-matter Jobs. Wear only white turtleneck sweaters, products become infinitely customizable, and sends hipsters desperately seeking a new, more exclusive platform to wallow in.
    Release The Hounds
    • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

      @Release The Hounds Woz would be a good choice, but he's enjoying the relaxed life at the moment, I don't think he'd want to come back to Apple....

      Then again, I never thought Nolan Bushnell would go back to Atari, so stranger things have happened.
      Ron Burgundy
  • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

    These crybabies need to get out of the stock already if they're so scared. If they have no faith in the company, they have no business investing in it. PERIOD!
    frankz00
  • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

    "Of course, this report is a bit of a stretch given it was based on a doctor who never saw Jobs and was making a prediction based on a photo of the CEO?s butt."

    Actually, contrary to your opinion, it is quite possible for a doctor to make a diagnosis and prognosis without actually seeing the patient. Using your logic every tech needs to actually see the computer to diagnose the problem.
    Goldie07
  • RE: Apple succession planning key topic amid Jobs health worries

    Although one needs to agree with the stockholders having the right to mandate a transparent succession plan, providing it in detail is a mistake. <br><br>As a stockholder, knowing it exists, and that the Apple management bench is deep (e.g. I sleep easy at night assuming that the leadership would be selected from Apple Senior leaders) is good enough for me. <br><br>It should be good enough for all share holders. I suspect most would assume it would be Cook, but what if it wasn't? What would Apple be without Cook's and any other senior leader that decides to leave, if they aren't in line. The transparent succession plan vote is doing more to sink Apple's valuation, than an actual change in Apple leadership. Their strategy and execution has gotten the shareholder this far, I'd suggest we leave it to the pro's, Apple's leadership, and not the mass of shareholders who have gained above market returns for the last several years.

    There has to be a line drawn on where stockholder guidance cannot cross. Imagine if product planning was left up to shareholder consensus, instead of the shrewd innovators at Apple.
    routsonm8