Former New York Times reporter turned investment banker Steve Rattner made the case back in January for the unique importance of Steve Jobs. It's an old historian versus economist type debate. How much of a company's success is due to the role played any one individual versus larger trends, strategies and plain old luck? Rattner opts for the value of the individual and offers plenty of evidence. He concludes:
The Apple PR machine is insisting the company has a fine back-up team and will continue to excel, with or without him. That’s likely to be true, at least for the moment. Stellar Christmas earnings, a seemingly insatiable demand for the company’s sleek fleet of products, and a strong product pipeline can surely carry it during a temporary Jobs absence. But just as Apple would never have gone from near extinction little more than a decade ago to $316bn of market value today without Jobs, it’s hard to imagine it maintaining its utter domination of such a hyper-competitive space without him or his clone.
-Financial Times, January 19, 2011 (subscription may be required to view full story)