Jobs' own story is far more complex. And in the 26 years that Fortune has been ranking America's Most Admired Companies, never has the corporation at the head of the list so closely resembled a one-man show. Last year Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster opined that if Jobs were forced out as a result of the backdating scandal, Apple's shares would drop 20% overnight. At the company's current market cap, that would make him Apple's $22 billion man. "Steve Jobs running the company from jail would be better for the stock price than Steve Jobs not being CEO," muses Sutton.
Jobs is hardly likely to be forced out, as we shall see. On the contrary, he's likely to continue taking Apple - and its customers, competitors, and investors - on a wild ride to places they couldn't have imagined.
It may be instructive, then, to consider what drives the Steve Jobs adventure.
Jobs' confidential phone list from the mid-1980s at Apple Computer, included in more than 500 boxes of company documents archived at Stanford, reveals the rarefied air in which he operated while still in his 20s. There are private listings for Joan Baez and Diane Keaton (both onetime romantic interests), the home phone for California Governor Jerry Brown, and the White House line for Richard Darman, one of President Reagan's top aides. By then, Jobs was already one of the first true business celebrities.
Jobs' phone list also reflected the complex crosscurrents of his personal life. There was Kobun Chino, the Zen Buddhist monk who was his spiritual guru and would later preside at his wedding; Clara and Paul Jobs, the working-class California couple who had adopted and raised him; Joanne Simpson, his biological mother, whom he'd tracked down as an adult with the help of a private detective; and his first serious girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan, the mother of Lisa, his out-of-wedlock daughter.
There was no listing, however, for Abdulfattah "John" Jandali, his Syrian biological father - a man Jobs has never discussed publicly. Jobs had been born to Jandali and Simpson, a pair of 23-year-old unwed University of Wisconsin graduate students, in 1955. Just months after giving their baby up for adoption, the two married, then had another child, whom they kept: Mona Simpson, who grew up to become a critically acclaimed novelist and never knew her famous brother existed until she was an adult.
A charming, promising academic, Jandali later abandoned his wife and 4-year-old daughter, moving from job to job as a political science professor before leaving academe. Now 76, he works as food and beverage director at the Boomtown Hotel & Casino near Reno. Mona Simpson's novel, "The Lost Father," is based on her quest to find him.
When Jobs had his own illegitimate child, also at the age of 23, he too struggled with his responsibilities. For two years, though already wealthy, he denied paternity while Lisa's mother went on welfare. At one point Jobs even swore in a signed court document that he couldn't be Lisa's father because he was "sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child." He later acknowledged paternity of Lisa, married Laurene Powell, a Stanford MBA, and fathered three more children. Lisa Brennan-Jobs, now 29, graduated from Harvard and is a writer.
At Apple during his 20s, Jobs served as board chairman and head of the Macintosh division. But he was never given the CEO job. Adult supervision - in the form of professional managers - was recruited to run the fast-growing business, notably Pepsi president John Sculley. "Back then he was uncontrollable," venture capitalist Arthur Rock, an early Apple board member, told Institutional Investor last year. "He got ideas in his head, and the hell with what anybody else wanted to do. Being a founder of the company, he went off and did them regardless of whether it ended up being good for the company."
To be sure, many of the gifts that would drive Apple's resurrection over the past decade were already evident in the 1980s: the marketing showmanship, the inspirational summons to "put a dent in the universe," the siren call to talent. Engineer Bob Belleville recalls Jobs recruiting him from Xerox in 1982 with the words: "I hear you're great, but everything you've done so far is crap. Come work for me." Jobs famously seduced Sculley to Apple by challenging him: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?"
But after two years of working closely with Jobs, Sculley came to liken him to Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. In "Odyssey," his memoir of this period, he called Jobs "a zealot, his vision so pure that he couldn't accommodate that vision to the imperfections of the world." In 1985, Sculley orchestrated Jobs' firing after a power struggle. And in his memoir, Sculley dismissed Jobs' vision for the company. "Apple was supposed to become a wonderful consumer products company," Sculley wrote. "This was a lunatic plan. High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product." Of course, Sculley was dead wrong.