Succession issues at Apple as Tim Cook steps in for Steve Jobs but it’s not the only company facing them

Nobody doubts that Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook is capable of running Apple in the absence of visionary founder Steve Jobs, he’s done it twice before as Jobs, 55, battled with first pancreatic cancer and then a liver transplant.

Cook is described as “one of the best supply managers in the world,” credited with changes in the company, including outsourcing to China, that enabled Apple to invade the mass market with the iPod and iPhone.

The only danger of him falling asleep at the wheel is that he might be too tired. Apparently Cook, 50, is prone to begin emailing at 4.30 am and at one time used to make conference calls to his team on Sunday evenings.

What he isn’t is a Jobs-style visionary but, then, nobody else is. It’s obviously to be hoped that Jobs makes a full recovery from his latest illness but Apple, just like any other company, has to face the future without its founder some time.

But Apple isn’t the only media company (which it is these days, partly) facing succession issues.

We have reported exhaustively on the travails dogging Mediaset boss and Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, most of them self-induced. But Berlusconi is 74 and even pharmaceutical cocktails won’t keep him going for ever.

Berlusconi’s rival (in Italy anyway) Rupert Murdoch at News Corporation is 79 and we’re still no nearer discovering what his succession plans are, assuming he sees the need for them.

Son James runs News Corporation in the UK but he hasn’t covered himself in glory recently despite a solid start when he was CEO of pay-TV operator BSkyB. He disastrously overpaid for a stake in ITV that the Competition Commission made him divest at a loss (although succeeding in his intention to scupper a merger between ITV and pay rival Virgin), launched an all-out assault on the BBC a couple of years ago which only served to highlight the Murdoch empire’s power and then made a prat of himself by marching unannounced into Independent editor Simon Kelner’s office to give the startled hack a piece of his mind about a front page that was mildly critical of his dad.

Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan, now pursuing his own ventures in Australia, shouldn’t be completely overlooked, neither should formidable daughter Elizabeth who has put her super-indie production business Shine up for sale, probably to News Corporation. Or News COO Chase Carey (the Murdochs don’t control all News’ shares).

Elizabeth, who’s married to PR maven Matthew Freud, was slated to appear with dad at the launch of the company’s new The Daily tablet computer paper with Apple’s Steve Jobs. Which says something about her status.

This has now been postponed, possibly because of technical glitches, possibly because of Jobs’ illness.

A joint appearance by Jobs and Murdoch would guarantee front page coverage all over the world. Let’s hope they get the opportunity soon.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.