On August 24 Steve Jobs made a very low key announcement that he was leaving the company he founded in 1976, was cast out from in 1984, returned to in 1996 and spent the next decade building into the most valuable technology firm on Earth.
His enigmatic resignation letter (posted on the public relations page of Apple’s website) said merely that ‘I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.’
We don’t see companies where a distinct personality encompasses a company or industry much anymore — the sort of man (seldom a woman) that used to be known as a ‘mogul’. Despite his infamous, embarrassing and hilarious ‘monkey dance’ at a 2008 developers conference (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvsboPUjrGc), Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s never had the recognition of his predecessor Bill Gates.
The consolidation of industries by finance speculation that swept the globe throughout the 2000s saw the end of several business figures that represented their own cult of personality.
When we said goodbye to Kerry Packer in 2005 it seemed the end of a succession of larger than life business leaders whose reputations did their brute force deal-making for them. Today many of the former jewels of the Packer crown (Australian Consolidated Press, Channel Nine) have been sold to faceless private equity firms while Packer’s son James lost three quarters of the family fortune backing gambling ventures.
Many people have already asked the obvious question about Packer’s only real contemporary, Rupert Murdoch — does anyone else in the world (including his three eldest children) have the presence to be the ‘face’ of News Ltd?
It might seem esoteric and unimportant to concern ourselves with whether we have a new figurehead who can engender the stardom Jobs did. But just one day after his resignation the Guardian website reported the stock price had dropped 3 percent, wiping $10bn off the company’s value. That’s a Jobs-sized hole someone needs to fill to assure the jitters across markets the world over.
Somebody better measure Tim Cook up for a black long sleeved tops, jeans and sneakers in a big hurry…