Monday, January 08, 2007

Why does Jobs get a pass?

Unlike, Enron, who, for all their shenanigans, may not have actually broken a law, Apple appears to have flagrantly broken the law. Why, then, won't Jobs be punished?
Jobs is too big to fail. He is too popular—among investors, journalists, employees, analysts, and in the culture at large—for anyone to recommend that he be deposed. Without Jobs, after all, there would be no Apple. The scandals at Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, and everywhere else ended the era of the rock-star CEO. But Jobs is the lone exception, as revered today as he ever was. Apple's 30-year history is divided into three phases: the golden early years in which Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak revolutionized the computer industry (1976-1985), the dark ages in which the company floundered after Jobs was ousted (1985-1997), and the glorious restoration (1997-present), in which Jobs ushered in a new golden age, making hip new computers and revolutionizing the music and entertainment industry with the iPod.

Everybody loves Steven. Employees love their visionary leader who has spread options throughout the company. Stockholders and analysts love him for delivering stunning returns. Consumers adore him for liberating them from the tyranny of expensive CDs and crappy radio. Creative types love Jobs for creating the iMac, a hipper alternative to the blocky PC. As Jack Shafer noted in 2005, even the press loves Jobs. Nobody—no board member, or analyst, or hedge-fund manager, or columnist—will step up to say that Jobs should go. A future without Jobs is simply too grim to contemplate. Writing in New York this week, John Heilemann cites an analyst who believes the company would instantly lose $14 billion in market capitalization if Jobs were forced out.



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