How Far Will a Company Go to Protect its CEO’s Personal Life?

One of the most intriguing pieces of business news last week was Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ return to public life, his first public appearance since October. After a six-month break and swirling rumors of health problems, Jobs apparently returned to work two months ago, but the health concerns and Jobs’ suddenly-gaunt appearance last year made analysts nervous enough that Apple stock prices dropped. So how far will a company go with their CEO’s public perception to save the bottom line?

Apple already knows how important Steve Jobs’ health is to its stock prices. In 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatric cancer, but the company kept the diagnosis secret, citing Jobs’ privacy over the welfare of Apple’s stockholders. The company only unveiled the information a year later once the cancer had been treated, still causing the company’s shares to drop 2.4%. Despite the release of a new iPhone last year, Jobs’ new health scare sent company stock dropping 5%.


There isn’t a major precedent to the Jobs example, primarily because Jobs is one of the most high-profile CEOs of the past century. But there are examples of companies doing their best to protect their CEOs personal information in an effort to stabilize stock prices. And now that the high-priced CEO is something of a pariah, companies are learning more about how these things can affect their shareholders. In 2006, the sudden extreme weight loss of Lazard CEO Bruce Wasserstein started a number of health rumors, all of which the company denied. While rumors swirled about everything from a heart condition to a 75-pound weight loss, Lazard refused to comment and kept Wasserstein from talking to the press, continuously reassuring stockholders that their CEO was fine. The story eventually went away and Wasserstein is still at Lazard, but the way this story evolved was perhaps a foretelling of what is happening with Jobs.

It’s not just a CEO’s health that can hurt a company’s stock price. A 2007 study from professors at Arizona State and New York University found that the bigger a CEO’s home, the poorer their company’s stock fared. According to the study, which analyzed 488 CEOs’ principal residences, a mega-mansion gave the impression that chief executives considered their personal well-being more important than their company’s. While we’re probably a ways off from some bizarre Weekend at Bernie’s melodrama, it’s certainly fascinating to think about the lengths a company might go to keep information about its CEO secret.

Related Articles

How does alcohol affect your brain?

Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.

(Photo by Angie Garrett/Wikimedia Commons)
Mind & Brain
  • Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
  • Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
  • Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

Surprising Science
  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

elephant by Guillaume le Clerc

Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons

13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.

It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.

Why cauliflower is perfect for the keto diet

The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.

Purple cauliflower. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
  • The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
  • It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Keep reading Show less