In announcing that he was taking a medical leave of absence, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has disclosed nothing to Apple's investors about his condition or prospects for a return to work. He did say clearly, in a statement released by Apple, that he would like to keep it that way:
"In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy."
The Financial Times questions that stance in its Lex column, noting that Jobs works for Apple's shareholders, its owners:
"No one wishes to pry into Steve Jobs’ health. But the inconvenient reality is that chief executives of public companies have limited rights to medical privacy. Apple’s market capitalisation is $320bn, but that is not the point. Shareholders own it, and Mr Jobs works for them. They deserve, therefore, more than a six-sentence email giving no details on his sudden leave of absence, sent out on a national holiday the day before the release of full year results. As it is, the leave – which is indefinite, unlike his 2009 absence which gave a return date – will arouse great human concern."
Nobody can agree on exactly how valuable Jobs is to Apple. Is the company bound to lose its way again if he is not at the helm? That is something unknowable. But, as Andy Crouch tells it, Apple in the second Jobs era has changed the way we live and provided hope when worry was the word of the day:
In the 2000s, when much about the wider world was causing Americans intense anxiety, the one thing that got inarguably better, much better, was our personal technology. In October 2001, with the World Trade Center still smoldering and the Internet financial bubble burst, Apple introduced the iPod. In January 2010, in the depths of the Great Recession, the very month where unemployment breached 10% for the first time in a generation, Apple introduced the iPad.
H/T Andrew Sullivan
Charles Elson of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware told Bloomberg Businessweek that, while he too can't put a value on Jobs to Apple, he thinks it would appropriate for Apple to offer more details on just how involved, or detached, Jobs will be from Apple's decision-making process while he's on leave. Elson also says that the issue of succession is one that should brought on into the open for investors to evaluate. You can watch the full Elson interview below: