Transparency in Corporate Statements About the CEO
On June 9, 2008, at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, numerous media outlets and a packed house waited to hear Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs’s keynote address introducing the new iPhone 3G. While the product’s debut drew raves worldwide, the real buzz was created by how gaunt and exhausted Steve Jobs appeared on stage. Rumors immediately began circulating on Internet forums on the apparent source of his condition – perhaps a reemergence of the pancreatic cancer he suffered in 2004 or some new unknown ailment plaguing the widely revered business icon? Six months after the WWDC, Apple announced that Jobs would not be delivering his customary keynote address at the Macworld Conference and Expo 2009, and that the charismatic rock star of the tech world would be replaced by the comparatively unknown Philip Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing.1 This made the previous rumbles pale in comparison to the full-fledged rumors that then began to flood media outlets, the Internet and Wall Street regarding Steve Jobs’s health and the subsequent impact on Apple and its future. “More Complex Than I Originally Thought” Steve Jobs finally provided some definitive insight into the rumors about his medical condition on January 5, 2009, in a statement posted on Apple.com. In it, Jobs acknowledged that he had been losing weight throughout 2008 and that the reason was unknown until he recently made it a priority and underwent further testing. Jobs stated that his doctors “…have found the cause – a hormone imbalance that has been ‘robbing’ me of the proteins that my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.” He went on to describe this diagnosis as a “nutritional problem,” that the remedy was “relatively simple and straightforward,” and that he would “continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.”2 Apple’s legions of fans and shareholders breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the founder and face of the company would be continuing to steer the helm of this successful company. Nine days later, an e-mail sent from Steve Jobs to all Apple employees was leaked to the media. It was later posted online as an Apple Media Advisory on January 14, 2009. In this email, Jobs wrote that his “… health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought,” and that he had decided “…to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.” He went on to explain that “I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple’s day to day operations” although “… I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out.”3 This information dropped like a bombshell as the media, shareholders and Wall Street reacted swiftly and unfavorably to the apparent lack of communication credibility from Apple. This latest revelation, while certainly the biggest, is what many say is par the course for a company that is too vague and mysterious in its public disclosures and corporate communication for such a large and prominent publicly-held firm.
“Continue a Pattern” This latest news brought back memories of 2004 when Steve Jobs suffered with pancreatic cancer. During that period, the media and public felt that Apple likewise acted in an unprofessional manner in its public disclosures about its CEO’s capacity to continue leading the company. A Wall Street Journal article from July 23, 2008, summed up the sentiment when it stated that this “…continue[s] a pattern that began in 2004. That year, the company waited nine months to tell shareholders about Mr. Jobs’s pancreatic cancer that ended with surgery that the company said at the time ‘cured’ him. The late disclosure irked some investors…” In fact, Apple’s secretiveness led to some unconventional behavior as, “The dearth of information has led investors to do their own digging over the years. In 2004, one hedge fund hired private investigators to tail Mr....
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