Former Apple board member Edgar Woolard Jr. talks about Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an interview with BusinessWeek’s Peter Burrows. “No doubt, none of the normal Apple adjectives — hip, stylish, trend-setting — apply to Woolard. The 71-year-old has an old-money, patrician air and had served on the boards of Citigroup, IBM, and the Business Council. Yet Jobs evidently liked what he saw, as Woolard was one of only two Apple board members who didn’t depart in a shakeup in August, 1997, that brought Jobs, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, and others onto Apple’s board,” Burrow’s writes.
Burrows: Do you think Jobs will be a positive influence on Disney’s board?
Woolard: I think people are misreading Steve Jobs. My opinion is that he will not come in with a heavy hand. I think he will try very hard to identify opportunities, and I think he will listen carefully to what Iger and the Disney management team has in mind, and will add suggestions. The two men seem to have a good relationship, and there’s one thing that’s for certain: If Steve has a good relationship with you, there’s nobody better in the world to work with. He trusts you, and he listens, and he bounces his ideas off you. But if he doesn’t trust you, it doesn’t work.
What about your work with him?
He didn’t agree with everything I said, but I never found him to be stubborn or unwilling to consider ideas. My guess is that’s the way he’ll approach his new position at Disney.
It seems to me that in some ways, Jobs almost runs Apple like a private company — that maybe he’s willing to make bold moves like that because he’s so confident that Apple can succeed long-term just on the strength of great products. It’s almost as if he’s willing to let Wall Street think what it wants — that in the end, if the company delivers great products, that the profits will take care of themselves.
Yes, I think you’re onto something there. First of all, Steve had great confidence in [CFO] Fred Anderson, so he let Fred deal with Wall Street for the most part. But it was clear that we were not going to play any games. We were not going to move revenues from one quarter to another to make a number. We were just going to make great products, price them well, and advertise them well. In fact, I think the first thing he did when he came back was to hire his old advertising firm.
Some folks in Silicon Valley wonder if Jobs may one day take Iger’s job. After all, they say, Jobs insisted he didn’t want the Apple CEO job at first, as well.
That’s so phony. Look, I was the guy who called him and begged him to please come back and be the CEO and chairman. And at first he said no. It’s only my opinion, but I think he wanted to size it up for a while and see if he could fix it. But I told him he was the only guy who could save that company. I think he came to see that was true. So the comparison is so nonvalid. He has no desire to be the CEO of a big multifaceted company. He likes to be in the action — where he can get three or four people to work around the clock to come up with some great idea. My God, I think the bureaucracy at Disney would drive him crazy! And guess what? He still has a full-time job at Apple, and he’s got to keep coming up with new iPods and iMacs. He’s got a big job there.
So what do you think it’s all about for Jobs? What really makes him tick?
I think he’s driven by wanting to make unique products that are outstanding and change the perspective for consumers. He wants to be the leading-edge guy — which he is. He’s the leading-edge guy in the world.
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