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Occupations' Health Concerns
July 26, 2008 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Should CEO's have to disclose health conditions to the public? The question matters if the person being referred to is Steve Jobs, whose health is under constant scrutiny. Does it matter that the person asking the question is one of Mr. Jobs' biggest critics?
posted by Xurando (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
John Gapper at the Financial Times thinks they should, given who it is:
It does not affect investors whether a senior executive has a racy private life or not, providing he or she can do the job. Even when executives do get ill, there is often no need for investors to be told all there is to know about their condition. But when a chief executive of a public company is so ill that his or her performance is seriously affected, investors eventually have to be told. That is particularly so when he or she personifies the company.
I don't know how much Apple's success is down to Jobs personally, but certainly the media image is that Steve matters. I think he should either come clean or accept the share price hit for staying quiet. It's just the other side of the coin from all the free PR Apple have received since Jobs returned to the company.
posted by athenian at 12:40 PM on July 26, 2008


The question matters if the person being referred to is Steve Jobs, whose health is under constant scrutiny.

The board of Apple may be contractually obligated to let investment banks or shareholders* know if there will be a significant change in their organization.

That legal obligation would probably involve letting shareholders know if Jobs would need to leave, for whatever reason, health or otherwise.

Joe Nocera is just a journalist and, in that role, for that reason, I doubt Apple's board would feel much compulsion to answer to his concerns.

* I am not a shareholder and believe his health is his own business
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:41 PM on July 26, 2008


No idea is that is true or binding, but ref.: "Apple board obligated to disclose material changes in Jobs' health".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:45 PM on July 26, 2008


What an interesting question. Clearly, part of Apple's long-term financial appeal is Jobs' talent and more importantly, the talent that he attracts. Would it affect an institutional investor's decision-making process in placing a large, long-term bet on Apple if it knew plans were afoot to replace Jobs in the short term? If you're an Apple shareholder, how do you feel about the risk posed to your investment that any secrecy could cause a downturn?

Seems to me that there doesn't need to be any new reporting legislation required -- the market would naturally reward those companies that safeguard investments and make their shareholders happy, and punish those that don't.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:48 PM on July 26, 2008


“This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record.
posted by spilon at 12:51 PM on July 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Apple tells analysts far less about its operations than most companies do. It turns low-level decisions into state secrets. Directors are often left out of the loop. And it dissembles with impunity.

Apple's entire market advantage seems to be being first to market with new stuff. What else should their shareholders expect?
posted by three blind mice at 12:54 PM on July 26, 2008


Given that the average tenure of a CEO in Fortune 100 companies has been declining, and has recently been around 5.24 years, the revelation from the first FPP link that less than 50% of corporations have a CEO succession plan in place is more than surprising. Or, an indication that corporate boards are nearly always looking, these days. Perhaps that idea (being always on the lookout for the next temporary honcho) is maybe the best way of approaching corporate governance; the responsibility to stakeholders of all stripes should properly rest with the board, and the executives they hire should be employees at will.

More than many CEOs, Jobs has perverted this organizational principle by packing his board. The fix for that kind of thing is probably partly regulatory, and partly investor responsibility. Unfortunately, a lot of investor money comes from people who want gurus. Jobs has just been better than many at finding them.
posted by paulsc at 12:57 PM on July 26, 2008


the revelation from the first FPP link that less than 50% of corporations have a CEO succession plan

Yeah, right. That my first priority, to make sure I can be replaced without inconveniencing anyone.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:01 PM on July 26, 2008


Does it matter that the person asking the question is one of Mr. Jobs' biggest critics?

Yes.
posted by cavalier at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2008


I agree about the long-term perspective on the relevance of the board disclosing SJ's ongoing health.

Apple's preset 30+ P/E is predicated on the company successfully continuing its rocketshot growth of the present OS X and iPod era.

Contrast with MSFT's 14 P/E.
posted by yort at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2008


how is should being used here? it can imply some kind of moral imperative, or it can simply mean "would be a good idea".

the moral meaning doesn't seem to have much of a case. whether or not something is convenient for shareholders doesn't have much to do with moral decisions (at least, one would hope not, although it's perhaps naive to ignore the american tradition of framing the interests of the rich as moral issues).

on the other hand, apple might choose to make information public for whatever reason - perhaps rational self interest.

i think the moral reading is being used to add "spice" to what is really just a pragmatic discussion. people are throwing around "should" to make this sound like a weighty matter when in practice it's just a business decision.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 1:40 PM on July 26, 2008


If a huge, multinational company's success pivots on the continued heartbeat of a single man, it's probably not a good investment.
posted by Dave Faris at 1:44 PM on July 26, 2008


If a huge, multinational company's success pivots on the continued heartbeat of a single man, it's probably not a good investment.

You're probably right. But if you can get free publicity on Metafilter about your new advertising campaign, that's a good investment right there. I'd buy stock in that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:48 PM on July 26, 2008


If a huge, multinational company's success pivots on the continued heartbeat of a single man, it's probably not a good investment.

I think he's married so all is good.
posted by hal9k at 2:48 PM on July 26, 2008


I think he should either come clean or accept the share price hit for staying quiet.

It's not up to Steve Jobs if he decides he wants to let the stock "take a hit".

I did buy some stock in Apple a couple of months ago, I haven't lost much (about $120), but it's still pretty obnoxious. The stock should be up now, from what I understand.

I wouldn't want to talk publicly about My Bowels either but I'm not a billionaire CEO.
posted by delmoi at 4:05 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd be a bit worried about Job's health if I were a Disney shareholder, too.
posted by empath at 6:05 PM on July 26, 2008


I just hope that whoever follow Steve Jobs is a designer/artist in background and not a technology guy or a money guy.
posted by empath at 6:06 PM on July 26, 2008


what kills technology companies is when marketing people take over like Sculley, Ballmer, Fiorina and Carl Yankowski (palm)
posted by bhnyc at 6:43 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just hope that whoever follow Steve Jobs is a designer/artist in background and not a technology guy or a money guy.

Steve was always a tech guy, not an artist. He likes to call himself an artist, for whatever reason, but his background is tech.
posted by delmoi at 6:46 PM on July 26, 2008


I've always loved that Steve Jobs is a total dick. I mean, Nocera's the guy who's written dozens of articles about how unfair it is that the iPhone doesn't have a changeable battery. So don't buy one, dude. Get over it.
posted by fungible at 8:04 PM on July 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


well you know what they say "an apple a day keeps the doctor away"
posted by baker dave at 5:31 AM on July 27, 2008


Should Jobs be forced to announce non-lifethreatening, embarassing details regarding his digestive system to shareholders?!

No. Of course not.

Why? Should you be forced to announce the same kind of non lifethreatening stuff prior to employment, so that they can decide to not hire you based on a preexisting health condition?
posted by markkraft at 6:58 AM on July 27, 2008


If people choose to invest in a company, senior management health is just one part of the gamble; the CEO is just as likely to have a random heart attack, fatal car wreck, aneurysm, or just keel over as the rest of us.

Further, if this senior executive departs (or is asked to depart) and there is common knowledge of a pre-existing condition, it opens up a real possibility of passive discrimination - companies simply not offering a position because the executive is has these known issues... Like, let's say an executive is HIV+. People (especially those with adequate funding) are living quite a long time and are able to remain professional functional, but there's a real threat as a potential employee/figurehead. The PR and market impact of this knowledge could potentially torpedo the company. However, if the executive remains in good working order, should the diagnosis matter?

Of course, a succession plan seems like a good thing to have in place; just seems like common sense, although it's obviously not. Again, any member of senior management could be taken out at any time.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 8:16 AM on July 27, 2008


: sends a pen touched by Obama to restore Steve :
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on July 27, 2008


I have it on good authority that Bill Gates has Crohn's. (Yeah, I'm just some random person on the Internet, mind you.) Maybe there's a link between digestive tract issues and starting a successful computer company.
posted by acoutu at 11:27 PM on July 27, 2008


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