Could Apple Thrive Without Steve Jobs?

The maker of the iPod is on a roll. But the options back-dating scandal casts uncertain shadows.

Aside from being extremely wealthy, what do Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs have in common? The answer: Few chief executives are more intimately associated with the companies they run. The future of Berkshire Hathaway after the 76-year-old Buffett departs, either voluntarily or not, has long been the subject of Wall Street and media speculation. But it may be just as appropriate to ask what would happen to Apple -- and its stock -- if Jobs were to leave the scene.

Jobs' departure from Apple would almost surely be the result of completely different circumstances. Jobs, who turns 52 in February, is one of the highest-profile executives to be ensnared in the options-backdating scandal. In late December, a two-man committee of outside Apple directors, chaired by former Vice-President Al Gore, exonerated Jobs of any misconduct. It added, however, that Jobs knew of thousands of options issued between 1996 and 2003 that had been improperly dated. On January 12, the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco disclosed that it had launched a criminal investigation into options backdating at Apple.

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Manuel Schiffres
Executive Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance