Fortune: How Steve Jobs puts Apple, and his investors, at risk

In October 2003, Apple CEO Steve Jobs “found himself confronting a life-and-death decision,” Peter Elkind reports for Fortune Magazine.

“A biopsy revealed that Jobs had a rare – and treatable – form of [pancreatic cancer]… Yet to the horror of the tiny circle of intimates in whom he’d confided, Jobs… decided to employ alternative methods to treat his pancreatic cancer, hoping to avoid the operation through a special diet – a course of action that hasn’t been disclosed until now,” Elkind reports.

“For nine months Jobs pursued this approach, as Apple’s board of directors and executive team secretly agonized over the situation – and whether the company needed to disclose anything about its CEO’s health to investors,” Elkind reports.

“No less an authority than Jack Welch has called Jobs “the most successful CEO today.” Jobs, at age 53, has even become a global cultural guru, shaping what entertainment we watch, how we listen to music, and what sort of objects we use to work and play. He has changed the game for entire industries,” Elkind reports.

“Jobs is also among the most controversial figures in business. He oozes smug superiority, lacing his public comments with ridicule of Apple’s rivals, which he casts as mediocre, evil, and – worst of all – lacking taste,” Elkind reports.

MacDailyNews Take: It isn’t bragging if you can back it up and there’s nothing wrong with telling the truth.

Elkind continues, “Says Palo Alto venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gasse, a former Apple executive who once worked with Jobs: ‘Democracies don’t make great products. You need a competent tyrant.'”

“Fair enough,” Elkind writes. “But it is also important to understand the ways in which Jobs’ attempts to manipulate his world pose risks for Apple – and thus its investors… It is Steve Jobs himself who is the wonder – as well as the worry.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Marc” for the heads up.]

Owen Thomas writes for Valleywag, “The author, Peter Elkind, has long been rumored to be working on a damning profile of Jobs, centering on backdated stock options. That Fortune is now leading off its story with Jobs’s cancer, not the options scandal, tells us what happened to that story: Elkind couldn’t get the goods. This is a cover story in more sense than one.”

Full article here.

[UPDATE: March 5, 2008, 8:15am EST: Added Valleywag excerpt and link as per MDN reader TReid below.]

38 Comments

  1. Considering that he recovered from his illness, I’d say that his course of action turned out to be a good choice.

    There are many different forms of treatment available–Some work for some, but none work for all. It turns out that he chose the one that worked for him.

    Is this even a story? :/

  2. Peter Elkind oozes the same smug superiority that he accuses SJ of. Yet he fails to understand that SJ made his own life or death decisions for himself and that in so doing he owed nothing to AAPL shareholders, employees, the public and whomever else Elkind thinks he should have. SJ had that absolute right. If you take Elkind’s argument to its final extreme then a corporation might at some future time feel that its interests would be best served not by keeping its CEO alive, but by his death. Then where would we be.

    Elkind should not write so authoritatively about being the CEO of a Global marketmaker facing a personal decision such as SJ did, unless he (Elkind) has actually been there.

    I might not have agreed with SJ’s decision at that time but I absolutely defend his right to make it as he personally sees fit. Last I looked it was still guaranteed under the US Constitution.

  3. @fenman Check out the backstory according to Valleywag, which explains why Fortune is dredging this up:

    The author, Peter Elkind, has long been rumored to be working on a damning profile of Jobs, centering on backdated stock options. That Fortune is now leading off its story with Jobs’s cancer, not the options scandal, tells us what happened to that story: Elkind couldn’t get the goods. This is a cover story in more sense than one.

    http://valleywag.com/363816/fortunes-cover-story-steve-jobs-hid-cancer-for-nine-months

  4. @TReid…

    Nice bit of Sherlock Holmes-ing there!
    It seems nothing is as it seems any more.. there is always a hidden agenda!

    Oh for the days!

    Yeah right – as in when?

    Thanks for the link.

    /rant
    I respect Jobs for his lifestyle choices – it means he will be healthy for a long time. A vegan diet is good but I would miss too much.

    More power to him and yes, these choices were his and his family’s – not the board or stockholders and most especially some slimeballed journo!

    /end rant

  5. This is all bungCRAPulous! I am the Governor of the greatest state in ALL of HIStory. I will crush Peter ELFkind like a puny little BUG man, but listen to me … I am aware of things of this nature … Steve Jobs is anti-canceriFIC. His cocky traits will come back to haunt him, just like I haunted Danny DeVito and his pathetic, puny frame with his bald head AND his king size backside. I AM THE GOVERNATOR. Peter ELFling and Steve JOBS-o-licious are NOTHING without my mandates and KaliFORNia is actually just a swamp of MEXicans and people who don\’t know how to have FUN or do fun things … like lifting 900 lbs. over your head 37 times in a row, or by renting my all-time hit holiday smash JINGLE ALL DE VAAAAYYYYYYY ! ! ! ! !

  6. This is yet another hit piece attempt by the bankers to rein Steve Jobs in. Interesting how it is done, so transparent that it will persuade few other than wannabe bankers so who is it aimed at?

    More people should take the red pill.

  7. /more rant

    I just read the entire piece and found it to have many pseudo-facts, similar to Obama being a Muslim (no he isn’t) and makes innuendo-like statements that to the non-Mac Head seem like real facts. As in the iPod market appears to be saturated. Oh, really. Funny, the sales just keep climbing. And that there are iPhone killers out there!

    FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD – FUD

    How can this a$$whole get away with fictional journalism?

    Yes, I am pi$$ed. I am so tired of these tall poppy syndrome diçkwads!

    /end rant

  8. So now investors should be involved in our medical decisions regarding our own bodies?

    I don’t think so. There are some things investors should not control, and take a level of responsibility themselves or their money elsewhere.

  9. “So now investors should be involved in our medical decisions regarding our own bodies?”

    No, but CEOs do have a duty to act in the interests of shareholders, and companies do have a duty to disclose things they know of which may material affect the company’s operations.

    Therefore in this case it seems like things worked out OK in the end, but as with many things at Apple were perhaps not handled as honestly and transparently as they should be along the way.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.