Investors ask ‘Is Steve Jobs irreplacable?’

19th January 2011

Stock markets clearly thought so, at least initially. Wall Street was closed for a public holiday when the announcement was first made, though suggested that a big sell-off of shares in Germany, where Apple has a secondary listing, suggested £16bn would be wiped the value of the firm.

Jobs' announcement prompted the sort of feverish speculation about his wellbeing more often associated with an ailing President or Pope.

Leaving that aside, however, in the US, National Public Radio has found a particularly well qualified expert to answer the succession question.

Professor Michael Useem of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania Centre of Leadership and Change Management was generous with his praise.

He said that Jobs was "a dreamer and innovator who is also a doer and executor, and so he is a kind of creative and business genius at the same time".

Useem also noted that Jobs, having founded the firm, left for a few years, came back, saved it from near oblivion and then turned it into a global champion.

But he is optimistic about the firm's future suggesting that Jobs has been providing a kind of tutorial to other senior execs at the firm.

But what about the investment case?

Business Insider replays an interview with Piper Jaffrey senior analyst Gene Munster from last October in which the analyst is very bullish.

But when asked is Apple ‘screwed' if Jobs leaves, Munster replies that he is not screwed but he is irreplaceable.

The Street also has a round up of US fund managers' views. Their message is concentrate on the devices not the personalities.

When first reported the news commenter Sid, Scunthrope, had two words – "Buying opportunity."

Was his assessment correct? Well, not only did shares rebound after the initial fall helped by very impressive quarterly business figures. But analysts quoted here on Canadian broadcaster CTV's website are now targeting $450 a share compared with the current $340 to $350 range.

However perhaps the last word should go to this world weary NPR commenter. Chris oconnell (chrisco) says:   "Unfortunately, no one is irreplaceable." Maybe that is true even for Steve Jobs.

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