Apple co-founder Steve Jobs named Fortune 'CEO of the Decade'
The magazine's profile of Jobs noted that the 54-year-old overcame rejection from his own company in the 1980s, a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation scandal, two brushes with death and "his own often unpleasant demeanor" to earn the title. Given that Jobs has transformed American business, the publication has heralded the 2000s as "the decade of Steve."
"It's often noted that he's a showman, a born salesman, a magician who creates a famed reality-distortion field, a tyrannical perfectionist," the report said. "It's totally accurate, of course, and the descriptions contribute to his legend."
In the past decade, Jobs and Apple have entered and changed the industries of music, movies and cell phones. The company has also remained in the computer business, where it continues to innovate as it has done for decades. The magazine went on to compare Jobs to some of the greatest innovators in business history.
"Remaking any one business is a career-defining achievement; four is unheard-of," the report said. "Think about that for a moment. Henry Ford altered the course of the nascent auto industry. PanAm's Juan Trippe invented the global airline. Conrad Hilton internationalized American hospitality.
"In all instances, and many more like them, these entrepreneurs turned captains of industry defined a single market that had previously not been dominated by anyone. The industries that Jobs has turned topsy turvy already existed when he focused on them."
Since 2000, when Apple was worth about $5 billion, the company has delivered record quarter after record quarter. Today, Apple is worth about $170 billion, making it slightly more valuable than competitor Google.
Thanks to its record-setting, Apple is now awash in cash with $31.1 billion in cash in investments. That total, in August, was the largest net-cash sum of any technology company, due to the company's debt-free position.
Jobs' decade, Fortune noted, actually began in 1997, when he returned to the company he helped to create. Under his watch, the company debuted the iMac, its modern all-in-one desktop computer, and the iPod, which became the standard-bearer for the portable media market.
The report also notes Jobs' well-known micromanagement practices and hands-on approach, noting that he would criticize the text in ad copy. Secrecy and the Apple message are also important. Jobs reportedly rehearses every line he and others say about his company in public. That tactic is key, as Apple is estimated to have received some $400 million in free publicity by sparingly making any announcements about the iPhone before it went on sale.
The article suggests that Apple's inevitable future after Jobs will be strong, because he has recruited people who have been "trained to think like Steve." But with the CEO's return to the company this summer, there is no indication that Jobs intends to leave Apple anytime soon.
"After creating more than $150 billion in shareholder wealth, transforming movies, telecom, music, and computing (and profoundly influencing the worlds of retail and design), what should Steve Jobs do next? Given his penchant for secrecy and surprise and his proven brilliance, it's a fair bet that he'll let us know when he's good and ready."