Steve Jobs apparently made a smashing success of his annual Apple presentation at the MacWorld Trade Show this year while introducing the new iPhone and AppleTV products. But as tech media analysts note, he almost had to hit a home run because of the deep scrutiny he is facing from the Justice Department regarding his role in backdating stock options for himself and other senior executives. Many of these same analysts note that while Jobs should lose his job for his involvement (many chief executives have recently lost theirs for precisely the same infractions that he appears guilty of), he likely won’t. Why? Because everybody loves Steve:
…Three recent articles argue that the options issue should — but probably will not — be the real focus [of the Show].
Their general conclusion: Everybody (except, presumably, for all these pundits) loves Steve Jobs, so he is going to get away with whatever part he played in the scandal. The articles suggest that Mr. Jobs’ rock-star status in the industry may have saved him and his company from a serious setback.
I’d like to add another class of people to those who aren’t wild about Steve Jobs, besides the three media pundits who wrote those pieces about the backdating scandal: historical preservationists. This blog has been covering the story of Jobs’ mad dash to demolish his historic home Jackling House in Woodside, CA. His ‘dash’ was dashed by an ad hoc group, Uphold Our Heritage, which organized to save the historic 1923 mansion built for copper baron, Daniel Jackling and designed by distinguished California architect, George Washington Smith (who also designed the historic Spanish Revival gems in Santa Barbara).
John Heileman, writing in New York Magazine, notes Jobs’ iconic status:
Over 30 years, Jobs has carefully, famously honed his image as the archetypal un-businessman. As an aesthete, an idealist, a man for whom money was peripheral. And now he and Apple are relying on that image to shield him from imputations of financial chicanery. The thrust of their message is that we should believe that Jobs is innocent because he is … Steve Jobs.
Does this man sound like an “aesthete and idealist” or a selfish, imperious fool? He publicly argued that Smith’s Jackling House was an eyesore which deserved demolition (keep in mind it was an eyesore because he refused to maintain it for fifteen years). He also argued that he would build a new home of much greater historical significance in its place. As you might imagine, this bit of monomania didn’t go over too well with the preservationists. In fact, it didn’t go over too well with Judge Weiner of the California Superior Court, who slapped Jobs down saying the home WAS historically significant; and that he hadn’t exhausted all (or even any) efforts to preserve the house.
In fact, in the year since Weiner’s ruling was announced three serious offers have come from wealthy individuals wishing to preserve Jackling House. Lucky for Jobs, his refusal to negotiate in good faith with any of them can’t be used as part of the record against him by the Court of Appeals. Jobs has told the bidders he isn’t interested in discussions with them till he sees whether he wins or loses his appeal. Does that sound like a man showing good faith?
So people can brag on Steve Jobs business acumen, his marketing genius and whatever else they wish to. But there is a group who are distinctly not impressed by Steve Jobs. And while we’re talking about whether or not Steve Jobs thumbed his nose at the law by backdating those options; we should also keep in mind that he has thumbed his nose at a California preservation ordinances too. In both cases, what Steve Jobs has told the world is that he’s too big and too important to be constrained by laws that limit mere mortals.
So far, California hasn’t let Jobs get away with this regarding his property. I hope that the federal government will not let him get away with it regarding the options scandal.
For anyone wishing to support Uphold Our Heritage’s legal efforts, please contribute.