Jobs the celebrity: A study in contrasts
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It was the 1980s, relatively early in his career, and Steve Jobs was traveling in Japan. In a hotel lobby, a gaggle of girls came up and asked for his autograph. Jay Elliot was an Apple executive at the time, traveling with Jobs. "I was thinking, wow, how many CEOs have girls coming up and asking them for autographs?"' Elliot says now.
Over the next few decades, Jobs' fame only increased, of course, and exponentially.
By the time he died on Wednesday, after years of medical problems, Jobs had appeared on some 100 magazine covers and had numerous books written about him, not to mention an off-Broadway play, an HBO movie, even a South Park episode. He wasn't the first celebrity CEO, and he won't be the last. But he may have been the first in modern times to transcend the business world and become a veritable pop culture icon.
And yet Jobs, who seemingly enjoyed the access his celebrity brought, also appeared deeply conflicted about his fame, zealously guarding the smallest details of his private life. And though he appeared smiling on countless magazine covers, he had a prickly relationship with the media and those who sought to write about him.
"Steve had a love-hate relationship with his own fame," says Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, an unauthorised biography. "He wanted it both ways. He clearly enjoyed the celebrity and the access it gave him, but he wanted total control over his image."
And he largely got it. "Steve was masterful," Deutschman says. "No one has come close to Steve in his ability to control and manipulate the media and get what he wants."
Where does Jobs fit in the pantheon of celebrity CEOs? Analysts struggle to find apt comparisons in the business world.
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