On Apple’s Q3 conference call a few minutes ago, an analyst asked management about Steve Jobs’ health. Apple’s response:
“Steve’s health is a private matter.”
Steve’s health is obviously a private matter, but it’s also a matter of supreme importance to Apple shareholders. We know of no big company, in fact, in which the CEO’s health is a more critical consideration for shareholders than it is at Apple.
We appreciate the company’s desire to neutralize this issue by invoking a response that many (most?) Apple watchers will sympathize with, and we certainly hope Steve is in robust health. But from a shareholder perspective, the “private matter” response is simply unacceptable.
Steve Jobs is arguably Apple’s single most valuable asset. If he’s seriously ill, shareholders have every right to know this. The definition of “material information,” after all, is information that the average investor would consider important in making an investment decision–and it’s hard to see how an Apple investor would not consider Steve’s health material.
The “private matter” response, moreover, is different than Apple’s explanation for Steve’s alarming appearance at WWDC last month–which was that he was just recuperating from a common bug. This begs somes questions: Does Apple still stand by its statement last month? Will it only provide information on Steve’s health when the news is good?
We understand that this is a sensitive subject, and we apologise to those who find it offensive. Steve Jobs is obviously a lot more than a corporate asset, and, again, we hope he is in great shape. But for Apple shareholders, his health is not just a private matter.