Warren Buffett chides Apple for not disclosing Jobs’ liver transplant sooner

Wed, Jun 24, 2009

Analysis, News

Mr. Moneybags and investor extraordinaire Warren Buffett criticized Apple earlier today for not disclosing Jobs’ liver transplant as it was taking it place.  In an interview with CNBC, Buffet stated:

If I have any serious illness, or something coming up of an important nature, an operation or anything like that, I think the thing to do is just tell the American, the Berkshire shareholders about it.  I work for ’em.  Some people might think I’m important to the company.  Certainly Steve Jobs is important to Apple.  So it’s a material fact.  Whether he is facing serious surgery or not is a material fact.  Whether I’m facing serious surgery is a material fact.  Whether (General Electric CEO) Jeff Immelt is, I mean, so I think that’s important.

A valid argument, to be sure, but there’s a bit of nuance that Buffett is overlooking.  Granted, Steve Jobs undergoing a liver transplant is an important fact, but is it material to the extent that it would affect Apple’s future prospects as a company?  Not really.  Apple’s performance over the past 6 months suggests that the company is more than capable of excelling even in Jobs’ absence.  Just because the mainstream media likes to think that Steve Jobs is Apple doesn’t make it so.

Also, investors are like sports gamblers.  Every piece of information they can get their hands on is important in their eyes.  “Did Tom Brady get enough sleep last night?”  “Did Shaq jam his pinky finger in practice yesterday?” “Is Peyton Manning using Rogaine?” Just because information is desired doesn’t mean that it’s as important as those who desire it would lead you to believe.

That’s not to downplay Jobs’ procedure, but merely to point out that investors will never be happy with the information at their disposal.  If Apple disclosed Jobs’ surgery 2 months ago, pundits and critics would be shouting that Apple should have disclosed a few weeks prior that Jobs was considering the operation in the first place.  Again, Steve Jobs may embody Apple, but the company is hardly a one-man show.

Also, why are people overlooking the fact that over the past few months, Apple has publicly and officially stated a number of times that Jobs would be returning to Apple at the end of June, right on schedule? Isn’t that really the most important nugget of information?



3 Comments For This Post

  1. Joe Anonymous Says:

    There’s another important piece of information. Apple can not, BY LAW (HIPAAA), publicize information about an employee’s health. Whether analysts or Buffet or King Kong think they need the information, Apple is not allowed to disclose it.

  2. Ralph Says:

    If it can in any way effect the share holder it should be made public – the more transparency in business the more people will invest – the more people that invest the more business – the stronger the business stronger the country – it’s all this hiding the truth that has caused the financial melt down in the first place –

  3. Uzzi Says:

    I have to agree with Mr. Buffet on this. As a publicly traded company any information that affects the stock holder value should be made public. I am hoping that most folks realize Apple is bigger than Steve Jobs, and due respect to his privacy, but a health issue such as this should be disclosed in the interest of transparency, albeit the level of disclosure might be sensitized to privacy concerns. Also, if you say that it is not material enough to impact future prospects, then why hide the fact in the first place. I am sorry but your own argument does not stand. Additionally making investors happy is irrelevant. As a public company what they do with the information disclosed is immaterial. Perhaps if one is so concerned with the gambling (?) nature of investors, then one should take the company private 🙂

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