Like many investors, I wonder how Steve Jobs' resignation as CEO of Apple will affect my portfolio. But as someone who has written about succession planning — both in families and in businesses — I deeply admire his latest move. He did it for the good of his company.
There's a whole lot of crystal ball gazing going on right now about whether Tim Cook, the company's COO, can carry the torch and whether Apple products will look and feel the same without Jobs. Miguel Helft, of The New York Times, cleverly read between the lines of 313 Apple design patents that include Jobs. Still he couldn't reach any conclusions, and neither can any of the rest of us.
Jobs needed to send a message to shareholders that the company can survive without him. And to the extent that a CEO as integrally involved with an organization as he is can do that, he has succeeded brilliantly. It's no secret that he is seriously ill. But no doubt realizing that dying in the saddle would cause a communications crisis, he chose to say his own goodbye.
That was a very brave move. None of us want to imagine the world without us. We raise children to be self-sufficient and yet we worry about what will happen to them after we are gone. Likewise, company founders want to leave a legacy. But whether they are contemplating retirement or looking the Grim Reaper in the eye, it's hugely difficult to let go.
In a manner of speaking, I grew up with Steve Jobs. My first computer (bought in August 1986) was an Apple Mac Plus. Historical footnote: It did not have an internal hard drive. I was the first person I knew to buy an iPad -- adventures chronicled last year in “A Financial Advice Wonk Falls For The iPad.” Since then that little device has accompanied me to Tibet and many other places. I now store so much reference material on it (including the Oxford Spanish-English dictionary and the tax code) that without it, I would need a U-Haul for the daily commute to my office at Forbes.
I mourn the departure of Steve Jobs from Apple. No products are as central to my work as those developed by that company during the past 25 years. As an entrepreneur, I'm a sucker for the story of how Jobs dropped out of college and started Apple in a garage. And his mortality makes me feel my own.
Let's hope the latest news doesn't mean that Jobs' days are numbered. But whether or not they are, his resignation from Apple is an important part of estate planning. It will also be his final act of leadership.