Apple’s single biggest corporate priority is (or should be) to diversify its dependence on Steve Jobs. In the past month, investors have gotten two stark reminders of just how much value the market attributes to Steve’s ongoing health and presence:
- A fraudulent report that Steve Jobs had had a heart attack (10% drop in stock in 10 minutes)
- A surprise appearance on Apple’s quarterly conference call yesterday (stock immediately up about 10% in after-market)
Neither of these stock moves illustrates the market’s full estimate of Steve’s value to Apple. If he were to leave the company, for whatever reason, the stock fall could easily be double the move in the hour after the heart-attack report–or more.
20% of Apple’s value is a lot of money: $20 billion at a $100 billion market cap (which Apple enjoyed only a couple of weeks back), more at a higher market cap.
Steve and Apple need to find a clear, strong No. 2 soon, and then Steve needs to start sharing the stage with him or her. This person can come from within Apple or outside of it, but investors need to know who it is. The sooner the better.