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Apple's Obit Isn't Ready to Run

Stocks in this article: AAPL

Updated from 9:37 a.m. EST

Do you own the stock of a public corporation because of what the company does or because of the person at the top?

Perhaps you look at Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and think, "This company makes things that are in my medicine cabinet, but that's neither here nor there. I really trust William Weldon."

Maybe you see an article on Novartis (NVS) and say to yourself, "The company's drugs might or might not be successful. I don't care that much. What matters is Daniel Vasella."

Or, when you think about Tootsie Roll (TR), you say, "I'm not sure people will be buying candy in the coming months, but that's irrelevant. Melvin Gordon has my admiration."

Is this how you make most of your investing decisions? Probably not. For most investors, the choice to buy shares rests on the belief that a company, because of its products or services, is poised to be profitable, have growing revenue and see its stock price appreciate.

That should be no less true for Apple (APPL) than it is for 3M (MMM) or Union Pacific (UNP) or Arctic Cat (ACAT).

But we know that isn't the case. What's different among all the aforementioned companies is that one of them has a celebrity CEO, a man who is so closely identified with the success of the business that many investors cannot fathom the idea of the operation going on without him. Of course, that person in this case is Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, the maker of the iPhone, the iPod and the iMac.

Can Apple thrive without Steve Jobs?

The company will remain successful either way
If he doesn't return from leave, the company will suffer
What Apple needs now is a clear succession plan

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