So sad that Steve Jobs has died, the guy is pretty much a legend for all the reasons that you are likely to have read about already. It won’t be long until discussion will turn to how Apple will cope in his absence. It is clear that Steve Jobs was the talisman for the company and when he was forced out in the 80’s the company suffered. This situation is different from his previous departure but it got me thinking about how companies react to the loss of an icon.
Within the vastness of the entertainment industry there are a number of occasions where the figure head has been lost. In music, Diana Ross left The Supremes and Michael Jackson left The Jacksons, both groups attempted to continue either with a replacement or in blissful ignorance but the impact was felt and neither group repeated the success they’d had with their leads. The death of a singer normally increases the number of records sold and posthumous releases are extremely common, with demo tracks re-produced, live tracks bolted into an album or simply re-packaging existing albums.
In film the biggest case I can think of is when Brandon Lee died before filming had been completed on ‘The Crow’. Ultimately the film was completed with some re-writes but this may have not been possible if at the beginning of the shoot. Alternatives do exist, a computer generated version of Oliver Reed was included in Gladiator, Liam McIntyre was re-cast as Spartacus after the unfortunate death of Andy Whitfield and Bob Monkhouse was reanimated for an advert! It appears that the show really does go on.
The most recent case is probably the suicide of Alexander McQueen, like Steve Jobs, he was undoubtedly a genius in his field, creating numerous iconic collections and being responsible for a number of trends. Perhaps where the differed was in business acumen, the fashion house was reported to be in considerable debt at the time of McQueen’s death - the same cannot be said for Apple. The McQueen brand continues without its founder and amid continued success under a new Creative Director.
It is difficult to find someone within business who has been as iconic as Steve Jobs. It is arguable that the loss of Bill Gates at his prime as the head of Microsoft would have created a similar impact but as he now has a limited role any potential issue is reduced. Perhaps businesses are now designed to prevent any one person having such a key aspect thus mitigating against their loss.
I have no doubt that Apple will remain successful at least in the short term but the long term plans seem a little less bright without Steve Jobs. One thing is for certain the techniques used in other industries means will not be possible to replace Steve Jobs.