Fortune calls Steve Jobs “CEO of the decade”

Thu, Nov 5, 2009


Fortune today labeled Steve Jobs the “CEO of the decade”, and looking back at everything that Jobs has accomplished since 2000, it’s really hard to argue with their decision.  The iPod, iTunes, the digital music revolution, the iPhone, revolutionizing the smartphone – the 2000’s undoubtedly belonged to Apple.

“He’s a visionary, but he’s grounded in reality too, closely monitoring Apple’s various operational and market metrics. He isn’t motivated by money, says friend Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500). Rather, Jobs is understandably driven by a visceral ardor for Apple, his first love (to which he returned after being spurned — proof that you can go home again) and the vehicle through which he can be both an arbiter of cool and a force for changing the world.

The financial results have been nothing short of astounding — for Apple and for Jobs. The company was worth about $5 billion in 2000, just before Jobs unleashed Apple’s groundbreaking “digital lifestyle” strategy, understood at the time by few critics. Today, at about $170 billion, Apple is slightly more valuable than Google (GOOG, Fortune 500).

Its market share in personal computers was plummeting back then, and the cash drain was so severe that bankruptcy was a possibility. Now Apple has $34 billion in cash and marketable securities, surpassing the total market cap of rival Dell (DELL, Fortune 500). Macintoshes make up 9% of the PC market in the U.S. today, but that share is increasingly beside the point.

With 275 retail stores in nine countries, a 73% share of the U.S. MP3 player market, and the undisputed leadership position in innovation when it comes to mobile phones, Apple and its CEO are no one’s idea of underdogs anymore.

… Then came the first Macintosh after Jobs’ return, the iMac, a breakthrough all-in-one computer and monitor that heralded Apple’s return to health. The success of the pricey iMac, coupled with drastic cost cutting, allowed Jobs to build a cash cushion. By repairing Apple’s balance sheet, he prepared the company for big investments to come, a shrewd business move if ever there was one.

… Over the course of 2001, as global markets fell and the world headed into recession, Apple launched the iTunes music software (in January), the Mac OS X operating system (March), the first Apple retail stores (May), and the first iPod (November), a 5GB model that Apple bragged would hold 1,000 songs.

The market didn’t catch on quickly to the significance of those events. iTunes was just music-playing software embedded into Macs and lacked an online store that sold music. The new operating system, though impressive, powered a niche product. The iPod was a snazzy MP3 player in an established market.”

You can check out Fortune’s full profile of Jobs over here.


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