Celebrity CEOs

Tuesday, 08 February 2011 18:24

Apple has had to announce another leave of absence for Steve Jobs due to health reasons. Steve Jobs has sadly been battling pancreatic cancer for several years and must now seek another bout of medical attention. Jobs' health has long fascinated many people, including investors in Apple. Each time Steve Jobs takes leave for medical reasons, Apple's share price drops. The day after the announcement Apple announced a net profit of $US6 Billion for the quarter. Yet within days fear over Jobs' health made Apple price shares drop 5%, taking $US15 off their stock market value.

Steve Jobs as Celebrity CEO

Steve Jobs is an exceptionally gifted and profiled CEO. With his signature black sweater, grey stubble and circular glasses, Steve Jobs embodies the celebrity CEO. He also embodies the Apple brand - sleek, intelligent, and well ahead of the curve. But how can a company that has become so accustomed to having such a high profile CEO at its helm survive when he cannot continue? Can Apple cope without Jobs?

Half of the world's top 50 brands are over 50 years old, proving that prominent companies can maintain their success with their inspirational leader. As a matter of survival, companies must have the ability to lose staff - even highly senior staff - and continue. This is an operational issue as well as one of market confidence.

CEO Insurance

There is growing awareness that companies have to, as part of corporate responsibility, to protect their executives by way of insurance. Insurance companies have begun the tricky business of assessing the exact worth of executives to their business. Corporations are continuing a trend that began in the sporting world, where such insurance is commonplace. An injury that would end the career of an English Premier League striker with a transfer value of 50million sterling ($80.76m) would have devastating consequences on his club. The club would miss both goals, as well as the potential money to be received from trading him on. Companies that have god succession plans face hard questions about life after a celebrity CEO has moved on.

Does Virgin Need Richard Branson?

Richard Branson is one of the most recognisable CEOs today, and his personality and the Virgin brand are pretty much indistinguishable. Nevertheless, while Branson is still centre stage for Virgin advertising campaigns and new product line launches, in terms of daily operations he takes something of a back seat. He remains controlling shareholder and top publicist, but Virgin's various businesses are run by sturdy professionals on the ground. They would more than likely be able to continue operating the Virgin Empire without a hitch in the event Branson retired or fell ill.

Separating Company Success From CEO Brand

Making a separation between a CEO that embodies its brand so deeply is never easy. On occasion other directors need to assert themselves to give the business more balance. Boards must ensure they are in control of a succession plan, rather than leaving it in the hands of the CEO to decide when they will retire. Some CEOs damage the company by overstaying their time.

Room for New Stars

Steve Jobs has made much forward planning, and even if he were never to return to Apple, their product line extends for another few years to come. Furthermore, Apple has a very strong management team which Jobs put in place. Apple has many other rising start, including Jonathan Ive, who is the company's principal designer, and Tim Cook the Chief Operating Officer who will stand in for Jobs while he is away. As is the case with many other companies with CEO brands, there are other stars yet to shine.