Does Apple have an effective CEO transition strategy?

“Steve Jobs is still CEO of Apple, and he’s still alive, and unofficially Dictator for Life. But I am definitely not alone and hardly an original thinker among many who are pondering about how long he might be able to remain in an active role at the company,” Jason Perlow writes for ZDNet.

“I think some consideration should be taken as to whether or not Apple has formed an effective transition strategy, and has adequately prepared for the worst case scenario,” Perlow writes. “What does Apple look like without Jobs?”

Perlow writes, “Companies that are centered around iconic founders and which cannot form effective long-term transition and mission strategies after they depart are doomed to suffer serious consequences. Case in point — from 1985 to 1987, Jobs lived out his exile at NeXT and Pixar, only to return as the company’s savior after over a decade of being completely rudderless and on the brink of oblivion… If Jobs were to abdicate, would Apple indeed become rudderless again? Or has he installed a church of his own followers that would continue on in the same tradition and ideology?”

Perlow writes, “Tim Cook, a former career IBMer, briefly filled the role of CEO when Jobs had his cancer treatment in 2004, but whether he has the institutional vision to run the company long term should Jobs have to leave Apple is a question only Jobs can answer.”

Full article here.


  1. The presence of SJ is important. However, he’s already established and set into motion the global growth of a brand new platform. Though still in its infancy, the future growth and success of this platform (and thus the health of the company) is virtually assured simply by the strength of the platform, the likely course of its trajectory, and the well-documented halo effect that will accompany it. If SJ was to step down and if investors sold the stock wildly upon such an announcement, it would become vastly undervalued due to the fundamental growth story which is still unfolding and which will result in higher and higher eps, market share, etc. for several years to come.

  2. I think the worst case is this: Tim Cook, Jon Ives and Phil Schiller provide a transitional team that covers all the bases — operations, products and marketing. These guys have been with Steve Jobs for years and, in the short term, could easily sustain the forward momentum.

    The bigger question is the long term. And there probably isn’t an answer, since there is only one other guy — Bill Gates — who has been as important to personal computing in the last 30 years. They are not replaceable, period.

  3. Well, look at IKEA. Ingvar Kamprad formed it 1943 and he is currently 82 years old. They are doing kind of alright…
    Why should this be different? There is no need to publicly form a transition strategy. Especially when considering that the market would take it as a very bad sign.

  4. At the end of the full article, the author wrote:

    “And while it pains me to say it, despite all Jobs has meant for the company in terms of its establishing market vision and external sex appeal — his unique brand of slick hucksterism that comprises its current success formula, leaving these traditions behind may be the only way Apple will ever realize the maximum of its true potential.”

    Ugh. If by “true potential”, the author means wasteland of cookbook corporate stupidity, then sure. The world does not need a Microsoft/Dell hybrid.

  5. The big difference between 1985 and whenever Jobs steps down is that next time when he leaves, he’ll have a lot to do with the planning for the leadership of the future. In 1985, he’d been neutered, and had no say in how things would be done in the coming years. This is a very important difference.

  6. Steve Jobs is not stupid. I’m confident that he’s making his methods reproducible and is training his team. Outside the public view, if he hasn’t done it already, he might even “retire on the job” for a bit to see how they do.

  7. Campy Tat or Catty Amp?

    Zune Tang is his own man, and a brave one too, battling the ignorance day by day.

    Why the hell does the spellchecker underline Zune on this POS MAC I happen to be using, hasn’t MAC heard of the fabulous Zune or are they just too scared to admit it.

  8. I looked at Jobs during his most recent keynote and saw a healthy, lean human being taking good care of himself. Sure, from the perspective of a nation that is 50%+ obese, I can see the perception of ‘sickly thin’ being applied to him. But Jobs is much smarter than average fat american. He brushed with deadly cancer. Has anyone thought that he might have gone on restricted calorie diet (google for it if you do not know what I’m talking about). It claims anticancer benefits as well as induction of longevity. Get it?! Jobs will not only stay healthy, but he will stay healthy LONGER. Hopefully at the helm of Apple Inc well past my retirement in 20 years. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

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