Heart attack or not, Apple needs an heir

Don Reisinger thinks Friday's hoax that Steve Jobs suffered a heart attack illustrates one key point: Apple needs an heir to the throne. Will Apple agree?

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

CNN's iReport featured a story on Friday saying that a "reliable source" told them that Apple CEO Steve Jobs suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Since then, Apple has denied the report, saying nothing of the sort happened. After confirming Apple's statement, CNN took the article down.

So it looks like Jobs is doing just fine. But then again, what if he wasn't? I'm willing to accept that he never had the heart attack (why would Apple lie?), but doesn't it beg the question of whether or not Apple should appoint an heir apparent?

I know, I know: some people believe Jobs' health is a private matter and should stay that way, but the stock price plummeted on an unsubstantiated report that Jobs had a heart attack. Can you imagine how far it would fall if it was true?

See, what too many seem to forget is that Jobs is the key to Apple's success and the figurehead that shareholders look to for safe-keeping of their money. Thousands of people are willing to put their retirements in the proper judgment of Jobs, and I think it's time Apple wakes up and realizes that simple fact.

Apple needs an heir to the throne now. Sure, most companies usually don't play that game and instead choose to appoint a new leader when it comes time to do so, but I think Apple is an entirely different story.

Jobs is Apple. Apple is Jobs. There are few other companies like that in the world and none in the tech industry. Apple's success and failure depends on Jobs whether we want to realize it or not. And the only reason shareholders are happy to own Apple stock is because of Job's sound judgment. Without it, there would be panic in the streets of Cupertino as shareholders wondered what the future of the company will look like.

Realizing that, why doesn't Apple fill them in on that now? Naming a successor doesn't mean Jobs will need to step down anytime soon and more often than not, it buoys a stock price because shareholders would know where their money stands after the leader decides to retire.

Speculation abounds over who Jobs would pick to take the reins, but I don't think it matters to most who he picks. The shareholders trust his judgment so much, that whichever person he taps to take over will be greeted with open arms by the shareholders.

But simply saying that someone else is taking over probably won't be enough. Instead, Jobs will need to bring that person to each and every Stevenote and let them take some of the spotlight away from him to show that their vision is well in-line with his. And if he can succeed, Jobs' health won't be a factor anymore to shareholders and the reactionary drops will be a thing of the past.

If nothing else, Friday's blunder shows Apple needs to be more open to replacing Jobs. If it doesn't wake up soon, it could face a crisis if something really does go wrong.

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