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How Apple leaked news about Liver transplant
By Bala Shah

Iconic tech company Apple has launched brilliant products that have revolutionized tech and telecom worldwide.  Charismatic Apple co-founder and boss, Steve Jobs, is revered as a demi god by millions of Apple fanatics. Most admire him as genius and are willing to forgive what they perceive as small personal failings and professional ruthlessness.

In 2007, Apple had cash reserves of $15 billion.  Today, it has doubled to $30 billion. 

But Apple is a public company and is required by law to tell its share holders anything that has the potential to affect their profits and losses.  This includes everything from money/perks for top executives to the possibility that Apple may have to fight costly legal action in the future.

But Apple has been very secretive about any information it gives out about Steve Jobs.  The Apple co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, has been ill for some time but the news has been withheld from the media and public. Last year, when it became apparent during his public meetings that he was seriously ill, the Apple PR machine dismissed it as an everyday flu and bug.

Apple keeps the media on a tight leash.  Journalists who toe the line are rewarded with exclusive access to Steve Jobs and other senior managers as well as previews of soon to be launched products.  Media organizations which do not play ball are frozen out.  (To be fair to Apple, many tech companies do this. But Apple has taken it to a different level)

Then in January, 2009, Steve Jobs admitted that he had medical issues that would require at least 6 months of medical care and rest.  He went on medical leave leaving Apple in the capable hands of its COO, Tim Cook.  No one was sure. Some felt it was cancer, others hypothesized it was a hormonal imbalance.  As you can imagine, anything that happens to one of the most powerful tech tycoons is of interest to the media and public.

On June 22, 2009 America’s leading business newspaper Wall Street Journal reported that Steve Jobs had a liver transplant.  The newspaper put a positive spin to the story by saying Steve Jobs would return to work by the end of this month.  The Wall Street Journal news report was picked up every major TV Station and newspaper in the world.

The story of the liver transplant was leaked just before Fathers Day and the launch of a new iPhone which would have diverted the attention of most people.

The Wall Street Journal is one of the newspapers ‘trusted’ by the Apple public relations team.  Valleywag.com noted: “Yukari Iwatani Kane and Joann S. Lublin of The Wall Street Journal - who, it now appears has an outright monopoly on exclusives and leaks regarding Jobs (something that'd make sense, considering the most direct implication of the Apple CEO's various health crisis: Apple's stock price) - reported last night on the revelation. Though not going to far as to state anything but the actual surgery as outright fact, the Journal's filing vaguely speculated that Jobs' 2004 pancreatic cancer came back, and spread to his liver:

If you want to understand how tech companies play the media, read Daring Fireball’s excellent analysis on how/why the liver transplant could have been leaked to the Wall Street Journal. Their view is that it was either leaked by Steve Jobs via his PR offsider Katie Cotton. Or by someone on the Apple Board of Directors.

The reality is that no one can really be sure.  The links between most CEO’s, PR Departments, individual Directors, TV Stations, Newspapers and blogs can be very complicated and incestuous.

In this case,  it was clearly an Apple insider who decided to leak the information so that it helps Steve Jobs and Apple.  The leak was to friendly Wall Street Journal.  The leak was just before Fathers Day and the launch of a new Apple product.  This is another example of tech companies working closely with media to ‘manage’ news.

Funny thing is that when the Apple Guru Steve Jobs, whom many consider indispensable, was on medical leave, the COO Tim Cook took Apple to even more success.  The demi god has selected a worthy successor in the form of Tim Cook.


(6/22/2009)
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