Monthly Archives: August 2011

John Gapper

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs. Image by Getty.

There will be plenty of time for analysis of what now happens at Apple and whether the company can retain is extraordinary leadership of the world of technology, but my first reaction to the resignation of Steve Jobs as its chief executive is sadness.

Mr Jobs, at the age of only 56, stands as one of the great business leaders – arguably the greatest – of the postwar era. For the past 30 years, he has not only led the wave of technological change emanating from Silicon Valley – the personal computer, the internet, the tablet – but stamped his aesthetic on the world.

He has combined the iconoclasm and creativity of the rebel entrepreneur with the ability to assemble a world-beating manufacturing, design and marketing team around him. In the past few years, Apple has been not only unbeatable but hardly even matchable. Its competitors have fallen by the wayside in frustration. Read more

When a chief executive unveils a new strategy to shareholders after nine months in the job, they hope for warm applause, not for widespread alarm and a 20 per cent drop in the share price.

John Gapper

The idea that Lloyd Blankfein could be convicted of a criminal offence over Goldman Sachs’ activities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis still seems far-fetched to me, although it clearly worries Goldman’s investors.

The fact that Goldman’s chairman and chief executive has hired a prominent defence lawyer to deal with a US Justice Department investigation into the bank led to its shares falling nearly 5 per cent on Monday.

The most plausible charge – although none has been brought – would be perjury over Mr Blankfein’s evidence to a Senate committee. Senator Carl Levin has accused Goldman executives of being misleading by denying they had “a big short” on mortgage-backed securities. Read more

Andrew Hill

It’s sad to see Eastman Kodak reduced – at least in many investors’ eyes – to a punt on the photographic pioneer’s patents.

On Wednesday, its shares jumped by a quarter on the suggestion that its intellectual property could be worth more than the company itself. It’s a sign of the times as much as it is a sign of Kodak’s failure to find a convincing answer to the digital photography challenge: Google’s $12.5bn agreed bid this week for Motorola Mobility was largely based on the value of the mobile phonemaker’s patent portfolioRead more

Andrew Hill

At July’s parliamentary hearings into phone-hacking at the News of the World, Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders wound up his line of questioning by asking James Murdoch if he was “familiar with the term ‘wilful blindness’”.

Mr Murdoch, now deputy chief operating officer at News Corp and head of its international business, asked Mr Sanders to elaborate, which he did:

It is a term that came up in the Enron scandal. Wilful blindness is a legal term. It states that if there is knowledge that you could have had and should have had, but chose not to have, you are still responsible.

 Read more

When I was nearly 13, an older friend sent me a letter with “This is a bomb!! Do not open!!” scrawled in teenage handwriting all over the envelope. This attracted the Royal Mail’s attention – it was during the IRA’s letter-bombing campaign – and my friend got a telling-off from school. But as far as I know, nobody at the time was calling for the postal service to be closed to stop real bombs being sent.

Andrew Hill

One problem with examining the road not taken is that it’s usually impossible to tell whether you took the right route until it’s too late to change course.

The announcement of the Google-Motorola Mobility deal sent me back to notes from an interview with Nokia’s chief executive Stephen Elop in March, to remind myself how difficult it is to make strategic leaps in a fast-changing industry. You’ll recall that the Finnish group ended up selecting Microsoft as its smartphone partner rather than Google. Read more

Andrew Hill

Apple’s flirtation with the top spot in the list of the world’s largest companies by market capitalisation – which would end a six-year reign by ExxonMobil – is the sort of market trivia that we journalists love.

Perhaps it’s because rankings are so easy to understand, and a ranking voted on every day has added spice. Apple nearly went under a decade ago, which further enlivens this tale of corporate success. But given the capriciousness of markets, the other main point of interest is that Exxon has managed to hold the top position, with brief interruptions, for so long. Read more