Peter Kafka

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The Limits of Steve Jobs’s Power: Even the Apple CEO Can’t Make Options Interesting

411px-steve_jobsCongrats to the folks at Forbes for a journalistic coup: They’re the first media people to get their hands on sworn testimony Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave last year in a civil lawsuit. A lot of testimony: Jobs talked for three hours, and the resulting document is 119 pages long.

It is, as Forbes notes, “a rare look at Jobs in his own words.”

Alas, Steve Jobs in his own words–at least when he’s being deposed in an options-backdating lawsuit–is mind-numbingly boring. “Just like us!” as they say in the celebrity gossip magazines.

Forbes has taken what it says are the highlights of the transcript and assembled them into an online slideshow, but the best stuff appears to be this bit, where Jobs explains why he asked his board for a giant options grant:

At some point in 2001 Jobs went to his board and asked for a big option grant. In the deposition Jobs said he had simply wanted a pat on the back. “It wasn’t so much about the money,” The Forbes 400 member told an SEC lawyer. “Everybody likes to be recognized by his peers. … I felt that the board wasn’t really doing the same with me.” With all of his prior stock options underwater from the dot-com bust, “I just felt like there is nobody looking out for me here, you know. … So I wanted them to do something, and so we talked about it. … I thought I was doing a pretty good job.”

Wouldn’t it have been nice, he was thinking, if the board had come to him and said, “‘Steve, we got this new grant for you,’ without me having to suggest anything or be involved in anything or negotiate anything. … It would have made me feel better at the time.”

Takeaway: Even billionaires need a back-pat occasionally. But if you’re looking for insight into the psyche of the world’s most famous business leader, that’s about all you’re getting here.

I haven’t seen the deposition myself, so it’s possible that there are other great nuggets buried in the 119 pages, and that Forbes is hoarding them in order to wring out as many stories as possible.

Then again, 119 pages of boredom is exactly what Jobs was trying to produce here in order to avoid further legal trouble with the SEC. Bad for headline writers and voyeurs. Good for him.