Jobs CEO of Decade Says Fortune: Give Me a Break

Last Updated Nov 6, 2009 1:04 PM EST

I can understand why people on balance admire Steve Jobs as a CEO. I can understand why Fortune might want to feature Jobs and Apple (AAPL) as a winning combination to feature. But CEO of the entire decade? Oh, please. To heap adulation upon the person of Jobs is to be taken with dazzle and to forget a few issues of substance:
  • Let's start with the stock. Marvelous run-up. As Fortune notes, if you bought $1,000 in stock on December 30, 1999, it would have been worth $7515 as of now. But about a year before it would have been higher -- and in January of 2009, about half as much. Historically, there have been some big ups and downs. What will it be worth six months from now? Nobody knows.
  • Stock price is fine, but how about handling tangible assets? If you look at the return on cash calculated by Tim Beyers at the Motley Fool, Apple's return on cash equivalents is practically zero. That is completely uninspiring.
  • Ultimately, a company is owned by shareholders, and the CEO must be accountable to them, as well as to the board. But Jobs doesn't seem to be accountable to anyone. Passing off kidney failure and the need for a transplant as a hormonal imbalance? Sorry, but that goes way beyond issues of privacy. If Apple can claim, as it does in SEC filings, that the availability of the CEO is a critical issue, then the potential death of said CEO becomes a material issue and should be handled openly, not -- pardon the phrasing -- buried. Lying to the owners is a bad idea.
Give the guy his due? Sure. But let's stop far short of a CEO hagiography.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.