Friday, February 9, 2007

Blogging from LA today

Down here trying to put out fires about the Pixar options mess. Maybe you saw the story on A3 of the Journal this morning? Here’s a synopsis. Big scoop. Back in 2001, I gave John Lasseter a sweet deal to stay with Pixar. Folks, the guy is the greatest animator of our time. Our deal gave him a huge bonus, a salary of $2.5 million per year, and a million stock options which were dated back a few months to make them a little more valuable. Point is, who cares? Would anyone argue we did the wrong thing in paying Lasseter huge amounts of money to stay on board? Have any shareholders been harmed? Mother of God.

Better story is the one about why I’m down here in the first place. Iger calls me last week and says Michael Jackson is shopping around a superhero movie based on an original script. I’m like, Dude, we’re not gonna buy that, are we? He says of course not, but can you imagine the pitch meeting? He tells me he’s got guys willing to pay to sit in on this. Mark Cuban has offered half a million to watch from behind a one-way mirror. So I arrive. There are like a hundred Fruit of Islam dudes outside Disney HQ. Inside, Iger says to me, Hey, Steve, you wanna use the men’s room before we begin? I tell him I’m fine. He says, Steve, I really think you ought to use the bathroom. I go in there, and, no lie, there’s Michael Jackson and Tito standing at the mirror. Michael’s in tights and a cape and — I swear to God — he’s got no nose. Just a hole in his face. Like Lon Chaney in the Phantom of the Opera. He sees me and just goes, in that little girl voice of his, Oh, hi Steve Jobs! How are you doing? I swear to God I almost gakked. Then he turns to Tito and says, Tito, give me my nose. Tito opens a case and pulls out a nose. Michael goes, Damn, Tito, not that nose! My bidness nose! Tito’s like, I thought this was an audition. Michael says No, it’s a business meeting, and I need my bidness nose, and dammit, Tito, I swear I’m gonna smack you, you know that? So there’s this elaborate process of sticking it on his face, and the whole time Michael is just totally calm, asking me about the iPod. He says, Steve, now tell me, don’t you guys also make computers? I tell him we do and he turns to Tito and says, See? I told you! Tito says that’s a different company but I said no it’s all the same. Dammit, Tito, I’m really gonna smack you, you know that?

Weirder still is the meeting. There’s like 20 Disney execs sitting around waiting and then Tito does this big introduction, where he goes, Ladies and gentlemen, I give you … Holy Man! And in comes Michael in his superman suit with an H on it. And he tells us the plot, which is that he plays this Holy Man character who is born on earth but is really a divine being from another planet and at some point discovers his superpowers and is called upon to save the earth from an evil villain. Iger, totally with a straight face, says, Michael, um, since the character’s name is Holy Man, how would you feel about having the costume have holes in it? Wouldn’t that make sense? Michael’s all exasperated and says, Bob, it’s not that kind of holy, okay? It’s holy as in, you know, like God. Like holy. People are snickering and kicking each other under the table. Michael appears not to notice. Iger goes, Oh, I see, okay, my bad. Sorry. Continue.

Michael says he knows this will be the biggest movie of all time, and as a result he wants fifty million dollars, cash, up front, before shooting begins. And he wants twenty percent of the gross receipts. And he says, Look, you white devils, don’t even try to start negotiating with me or whatever, because I tell you what. I grew up in this business. I know all your dirty white devil tricks. If you won’t meet my terms I’ll just walk across the street to the other batch of white devils and get my money from them. Understood? Good. You have twenty-four hours to give me an answer.

Then he snaps his fingers and his little crew of bodyguards take off in formation after him, with Tito trailing along. Next thing I know Mark Cuban comes out from behind a wall and says, You know what? It’s crazy but it might work. I’m serious. Everybody else just shakes their head and goes back to sitting in their offices pretending to check email or make phone calls or whatever.

This is what they do down here. They play practical jokes on freako Michael Jackson. This is what passes for “work” in Hollywood. God. And they have the balls to give me grief about options? I can’t wait to get back to the Valley.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Much love, Holman W. Jenkins Jr.

I can’t link to Holman’s article from this morning because it’s on the pay-only Wall Street Journal site. (BTW where’s the outrage from the EU leftietards over this “closed system”? How soon until some unemployed Scandinavian sitting around in his pee-stained underpants figures out how to “hack” the copy protection and then claims a moral victory, arguing that the Journal should be allowing everyone to just see its content at no cost, and make as many copies as they like? But I digress.) But basically old HWJJr. sees right through the BS at Cisco over their alleged iPhone trademark. Bottom line: It’s a shakedown. And not even a good one. Cisco claims it wants “interoperability.” In other words, you’ve got a great business, so let us ride your coattails. Money quote:

Cisco’s proffer, in other words, is the equivalent of slipping and falling on Mick Jagger’s sidewalk, then trying to parlay it into a place in the band (with royalties, of course).

Thing is, Cisco desperately wants to move into the consumer space. The core of the network, where Cisco has made its bones, has become a commodity. All the action is at the edge. Hence their acquisitions of Scientific Atlanta and Linksys. But content, as always, is king. It’s about the software. And that’s what I’ve got. And no, Mr. Chambers, you can’t have it just because you booted some last-minute field goal on this iPhone trademark. Sorry.

Besides that, have you ever seen those butt-ugly Linksys WiFi modems? Sort of purple and black, with giant antennas? Who wants one of those in their house? Who thinks I’m gonna let those frigtards “interoperate” with my beautiful gear? No friggin way. But thank you, thank you, Holman, for saying what needed to be said. Peace out.

(Note to Apple PR: Can we get this guy in for a one-hour hypnosis session, er, “one-on-one interview” regarding the options business?)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Not to beat a dead horse

But since the wags in the press seem determined to keep flogging this options thing, let me slice this baloney a different way. So the big complaint about backdating is that people make more money than they should on their options. It’s like betting on a horse after the race is over. It’s like choosing lottery tickets after the winning numbers have been drawn. Okay, okay, I understand. But in my case this doesn’t really apply. Why? Because I never made a dime. I didn’t make any “extra” profit because I never made any profit at all. I gave the options back, unexercised. I didn’t cash in my lottery ticket, or my horse race stub, or whatever they give you at a horse race. I threw them in the trash. So how on earth did I profit by my sins? Where’s the big crime?

Oh, and yeah, in case you’re wondering, the feds tried the old perjury trap trick on me too, the one that got Martha. But old El Jobso was smart enough not to walk into that one. Poor Martha. They never proved she’d actually done anything wrong with her stock; so instead they locked her up for lying about it. Well, I’ve got slighly better legal advisers than Martha does.

So this is what I was telling Jerry York yesterday. I’m like, I didn’t make any money, and I didn’t lie, so what have they got? He goes, “Kid, you know that, and I know that. But you know how persistent these bastards are. They like high-profile bad guys. And you’re about as high profile as it gets. But don’t you worry, kid. I’ve got a plan for how to deal with these bastards at the SEC, and the SOBs in the press, too. Ain’t pretty, but it’ll work. Here, let me tell you about it.”

Then he did. It’s so brilliant, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself. No worries. I’ll take credit for it anyway. What’s that? You want to know what it is? Forget about it. I’m not telling. But you’ll see. Stay tuned, that’s all I’m gonna say.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Why the Times is beating this options thing to death

I’m sure you saw Joe Nocera’s column in the Times this morning. Now look. Maybe you’re wondering why these guys in the media just can’t let go of this non-story about the options. Let me explain. The fact is, there’s no quote-unquote “scandal.” Problem is, “no scandal” doesn’t sell papers. But Joe and his brethren are in the business of selling papers. Or “driving traffic” if they’re in the online press. They have a financial incentive to keep this alive. And the Times has extra incentives, first being that a) they’re lefties who basically hate business; and b) the Journal has been kicking the daylights out of them on this story and now they want to catch up.

Guess what they’ll all do when the whole thing blows over? Don’t hold your breath waiting for any of these reporters to say they were wrong. They’ll either skulk away in silence, or they’ll bury the story on a back page, or the really brassy ones will write articles saying, in effect, “Jobs got away with it.”

But look. What did I get away with? If you read Joe’s entire article, you’ll see that Joe eventually gets around to admitting that there’s no harm and no foul here. He reports that in 2003 I gave back all the options I’d been granted in 2000 and 2001. I never exercised them. And when I turned them in, they were worthless — “underwater” as the financial guys say. Then the board gave me 5 million restricted shares, which, as Joe reports, are now worth $900 million. Okay.

Erase the earlier options from your mind, and just imagine that in 2003, the board simply decided to give me shares that are now worth $900 million. (They were worth about 1/10th as much when I got them, by the way.) Would anyone have a problem with that?

So what’s the big fuss? Joe and others of his ilk (cough Ben Stein cough) are all upset because of a couple of clerical errors regarding some options that I never exercised and turned back in to the company while they were underwater. It’s an academic exercise.

Yes, we neglected to cross our t’s and dot our i’s as they say in Swedish. But who cares? You really think the greatest CEO in the world should be tossed out over something like this? Who’d benefit from that? Shareholders? Nope. Customers? Nope. Microsoft? Um, in fact, yes. Not saying Mr. Bill is behind this. But if you really want a world where Vista is your OS, and Zune is your music player, and your Windows-based smart phone isn’t smart enough to make phone calls without crashing, well, sure, send old Jobso to the scrap heap.

Otherwise, let’s all grow up, put this behind us, and move on.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Friggin lawyers

I’ve just been informed by one of the lawyers who are doing the internal investigation (still, ugh) that my last blog post constitutes a “forward looking statement.” I’ve had it with these dudes. If I can’t brag about my own company, then there’s something wrong with this world. You know what I told him? I said, “Here’s another forward looking statement. I predict you’re going to dragged out of here by security guards and beaten like a circus monkey. Now please stop making sounds with your mouth because you are totally messing with my Zen and I need to stay focused today. Jesus. Where is my green tea? Would someone bring me a friggin green tea, at exactly one hundred and sixty five degrees Fahrenheit? And where’s my makeup person? And my colorist? Jesus friggin Christ what am I paying you people for? Does anyone have my turtleneck? And a backup in case the first one gets a spill on it? And a backup for the backup? Okay. Okay. Go to the still center, dude. Still center. Pond of water. Pond of water. Calm surface. Unbroken by waves. Ommmm. Ommmm.”

Dudes, I’m sorry, but I really don’t like lawyers. They have no sense of what this company is all about.