Friday, February 25, 2011

The Tao of Steve

I have mixed feelings about Steve Jobs.  In my quasi-academic opinion, the guy is a genius at marketing and a moron at management.  His ability to provide value to customers--and to extract said value for his company--is unquestionable.  However, he appears not to have cultivated a company that can run very well without him.  As evidence consider the fact that he is away on sick leave, but still calling all the major shots.

This becomes an even bigger issue as he gets older and sicker, and as Apple eventually begins to deal with the problem of who will replace the one true CEO?  At the company's annual shareholders' meeting, a group of shareholders proposed a measure that, according to the WSJ,
requested the board adopt and disclose a detailed succession planning policy that included the development of criteria for the CEO position, identification of internal candidates and the submission of an annual report to shareholders.
 Now, normally I don't have a high opinion of shareholder proposals because, frankly, shareholders are mostly idiots.  Just because you bought three shares of Apple doesn't mean you know anything about running a company.  My policy on stock holding is that you own the rights to proceeds from the firm's business, not the right to exert any kind of control over the business.  With limited liability comes limited rights.  Sorry, I'm on my soap box again.

Anyway, the proposal doesn't sound so bad to me, given Apple's circumstances.  But of course, the shareholders themselves voted it down.  What I can't understand is why the board would resist this.  My only thought is that they have bought into the Tao of Steve (it's a movie) and, like most Apple users I imagine, secretly wish that Steve Jobs would stick around until the next millenium.  The fact is, before too much longer he will have to step down, and it would be nice for Apple's stock price if the board had any clue how they would respond to that.

Again, I don't really like shareholder proposals, but it wouldn't be a bad idea for the board to communicate that they are thinking about these things.

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