Multiple Choice PR

January 14, 2009 in Finance

If you're a multi-billion dollar public company, and your revered CEO (whom many believe is your single greatest asset) becomes ill with what could be a relapse of the pancreatic cancer he dealt with 4 years earlier, do you:

  1. Announce his illness
  2. Not announce his illness
  3. Say everything is fine, but then announce his illness a week later

Certainly, Apple chose C).  

Just 9 days ago, Steve Jobs told us he was having a few hormonal problems which were causing him to lose wait, but - don't worry! - everything was fine. Today Tim Cook is stepping up to the plate because Jobs is out of action until June (and given how Apple has met deadlines recently, that could mean anything).

Unless we jump in bed (or put on tin hats?) with the conspiracy theorists, I don't think Jobs or Apple made any concious decision to mislead the public.  It is too stupid an idea, too easy to get caught.  More likely, they recognized the public's appreciation of the situation and the first basic tests (of whatever regime they subjected Jobs to) came back with good news, so they decided to announce that right away.  It is my (unfortunate) belief that later testing revealed a more grave situation, and the company decided to act pragmatically.

One of the headlines regarding Jobs this afternoon was "Apple's Jobs says curiosity over his health [is a] 'distraction'". Certainly, it is, and that knowledge must have informed the decision to announce his departure despite its apparant contradiction with last week's statement.  Perhaps we will learn more shortly.

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