David Prosser: Apple's awkward changing of the guard

 

Outlook One of the most regularly quoted perspectives on the recent stock market crisis is that Apple has become a more valuable company than every single bank in the eurozone combined. But over the past 36 hours or so, its stock has proved almost as volatile as the paper of an under-fire French bank – and it need not have been this way.

The resignation of Steve Jobs came as a surprise (though maybe it shouldn't have done given his well-documented health problems). But there was a bigger shock in Mr Jobs's resignation letter to the board. "I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple," he said. Apple had a succession plan? Who knew?

Not most shareholders (or if they did, they weren't impressed). Mr Jobs's departure prompted a 5 per cent sell-off in Apple shares in late trading on Wednesday, which was followed by another 2 per cent in early trading yesterday.

That 7 per cent was only marginally better than the 8 per cent decline seen in January when Mr Jobs said he was taking a leave of absence from Apple. The company has had eight months to address what that fall reflected – a lack of confidence in its plans for life after Mr Jobs – but it has failed to do so.

Succession planning is a vital part of modern business strategy and there is no excuse for failing to do the job properly.

Is the cult of Steve Jobs overdone? Almost certainly: this is a company that is far too large and wide-ranging for the departure of even its most senior and long-serving executive to justify investors' collective anxiety attack. But Apple has only itself to blame for the market's misjudgement.

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