Steve Jobs refused to talk philanthropy with biographer

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Though very few subjects were off-limits to biographer Walter Isaacson, one subject Apple co-founder Steve Jobs declined to talk about was what he planned to do with his wealth after he died.



Isaacson participated in a question-and-answer session with the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Calif. Among the more than 500 people in attendance was analyst Brian Marshall with ISI Group, who shared details of the event on Thursday.



The one thing that Jobs wouldn't reveal in their numerous interviews, Isaacson said, was his thoughts on philanthropy and what he would do with his billions of dollars after he died. One example cited was Jobs's refusal to participate in "The Giving Pledge," a campaign started by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, which asks the richest people in America to donate most of their money to philanthropic causes.



The refusal of Jobs to talk about philanthropy was called out earlier this year, before the Apple co-founder passed away, in an editorial in The New York Times by Andrew Ross Sorkin entitled "The Mystery of Steve Jobs's Public Giving." Sorkin questioned why there is "no public record" of Jobs donating any of his money to charity, despite the fact that he was worth billions of dollars.



U2 lead singer Bono quickly came to the defense of Jobs, and wrote a letter to the editor of the Times defending his contribution to fight AIDS in Africa. Bono is the founder of (Product)RED, a charity that battles AIDS, which Apple has supported with special red iPod models since 2006.



Bono revealed that Apple's participation in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS was the largest of any company in the world, and that tens of millions of dollars were donated to H.I.V. testing, treatment and counseling.



"Just because he's been extremely busy doesn't mean that he and his wife, Laurene, have not been thinking about these things," Bono wrote. "You don't have to be a friend of his to know what a private person he is or that he doesn't do things by halves."



Aside from Jobs's privacy on philanthropy, Isaacson also spoke with the Commonwealth Club about content that was missing from the book. He said that any comments that were hurtful to individuals and served no purpose in the book were left out. One error in the book is that Burl Smith is a hardware engineer, not a software engineer.







The biographer revealed that he would write "Steve Jobs" from 9 p.m. until between 2 and 3 a.m., and would use Dropbox to access the raw manuscript while he was on the road. Isaacson said he wrote the book under the assumption that Jobs would eventually read the finished product.



The author also said that Jobs didn't attempt to replace himself at Apple, but picked executives that would be able to sustain Apple's competitiveness after he was gone. Jobs reportedly told Isaacson that he felt his greatest creation was the company Apple, not any individual product.



Released in October, "Steve Jobs" has already become Amazon's best selling book of 2011. The book is available in a hardcover edition, as well as digitally on the Kindle platform and Apple's iBookstore.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 102
    Further proof that Steve Jobs was a complete jerk.



    EDIT: Changed punctuation because some people literally cannot see sarcasm! Strange!
  • Reply 2 of 102
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Further proof that Steve Jobs was a complete jerk⸮



    What somebody does with their money is nobody else's business.



    A lot of that philanthropy stuff is just a bunch of rich people seeking publicity for themselves. Who's to say that Steve Jobs didn't donate a bunch of money to various causes anonymously? Maybe he wasn't an attention seeking whore like some other people who give money away.



    And I also feel that the hurtful comments should have been included in the book, as hurtful comments always serve a purpose, otherwise they wouldn't have been made.



    When I become rich, one of my goals is to become an anti-philanthropist.
  • Reply 3 of 102
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,218member
    I think that is totally understandable and in character (as in 'good character'). Those that talk a lot about their philanthropy always make me very suspicious.
  • Reply 4 of 102
    nkhmnkhm Posts: 928member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Further proof that Steve Jobs was a complete jerk⸮



    No, the exact opposite.



    A philanthropist doesn't help others for his own fame. True charity is given without personal fanfare.
  • Reply 5 of 102
    There is a strong likelihood that the couple were donating anonymously. Laurene Powell-Jobs is even more private than her deceased husband; only her tax preparer needs to know. Assuming they were donating anonymously before, she will probably continue to do so. There's no reason why she would go public with her philanthropic activities now. After all, she has been involved in non-profits for years (mostly education focused). Remember, Laurene Powell isn't a soccer mom. She worked at Merrill Lynch and has a Stanford MBA. Their wealth is probably tucked away in a private trust and there aren't public records for those, no probate court documents.



    By donating anonymously, you have the personal satisfaction of having done something beneficial, without fielding requests from development managers from hundreds of others of charities.



    I will point out that every single major charity (performing arts, museums, etc.) has anonymous donors at pretty much every single contribution level. Go to a symphony, opera, ballet, etc. and look at the program. Read the annual report from any large museum.



    Contributing anonymously is far more common than a lot of people surmise.



    Steve Jobs did contribute generously to the Woodside schools until the town of Woodside started jerking him around over the demolition permit of the Jackling Estate. Finally, he said enough and turned off the money spigot to the schools.
  • Reply 6 of 102
    I wish they would come up with the 1.1 version of the book. There were some technical mistakes (such as the "fast access time" for the NeXT optical drive. It should have been "slow access time"), and some chapters seemed rushed and some stories seemed out of sequence toward the end.
  • Reply 7 of 102
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Further proof that Steve Jobs was a complete jerk⸮



    Further proof that someone is, in any case.





    Only on a site like this one would this be reported as interesting news. Imagine how this would play out on other topics. Entertainment Tonight teaser: "We interviewed ADELE and she declined to talk about her sex life! Tune in at 8:00 for more on this developing story!"
  • Reply 8 of 102
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nkhm View Post


    No, the exact opposite.



    A philanthropist doesn't help others for his own fame. True charity is given without personal fanfare.



    While I agree with this, I would add that someone like Gates likely isn't leveraging his name in philanthropy for greater fame, but leveraging his name to help his cause. I.e. if Gates is running a charity it gets more media attention and more people interested in helping.



    So someone who is public isn't necesarily doing it for egotistic purposes.
  • Reply 9 of 102
    No one on here knows if he donated money or not. If he did give anonymously, then he didn't want people to know he gave the money away, so everyone should just assume he gave nothing, just as he seemingly wanted. Next topic.
  • Reply 10 of 102
    malaxmalax Posts: 1,598member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by winstein2010 View Post


    I wish they would come up with the 1.1 version of the book. There were some technical mistakes (such as the "fast access time" for the NeXT optical drive. It should have been "slow access time"), and some chapters seemed rushed and some stories seemed out of sequence toward the end.



    Then we can buy it all over again like the Director's Cut of Lord of the Rings.



    But you're right. I wouldn't be surprised if when the paperback come out it doesn't have an "updated with additional material" sticker on it (and quietly fixed errata).
  • Reply 11 of 102
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    What somebody does with their money is nobody else's business.



    A lot of that philanthropy stuff is just a bunch of rich people seeking publicity for themselves. Who's to say that Steve Jobs didn't donate a bunch of money to various causes anonymously? Maybe he wasn't an attention seeking whore like some other people who give money away.



    And I also feel that the hurtful comments should have been included in the book, as hurtful comments always serve a purpose, otherwise they wouldn't have been made.



    When I become rich, one of my goals is to become an anti-philanthropist.



    Well said.
  • Reply 12 of 102
    Personally I think Jobs didn't like the idea of charity....ie simply giving away something valuable without it being earned. It simply went against his world view. I think he was absolutely fine with helping people, but was uncomfortable with the conventional idea of simply giving away money. I think he much rather would have created new companies and products that would help people help themselves, rather than just handing over money, which probably seemed crass to him and non-renewable. I think he had far more faith in capitalism to do good than conventional charity.



    So do I. Giving money away like Gates and Buffet do is not the best use of that money. It creates short-term benefits but not long-term, sustainable ones. And while it does benefit some needy people, it also benefits the slick do-nothing types that often run and work for philanthropic organizations, which is an ugly side effect.
  • Reply 13 of 102
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    What somebody does with their money is nobody else's business.



    A lot of that philanthropy stuff is just a bunch of rich people seeking publicity for themselves. Who's to say that Steve Jobs didn't donate a bunch of money to various causes anonymously? Maybe he wasn't an attention seeking whore like some other people who give money away.



    And I also feel that the hurtful comments should have been included in the book, as hurtful comments always serve a purpose, otherwise they wouldn't have been made.



    When I become rich, one of my goals is to become an anti-philanthropist.



    What he said.

    It's his money, he earned it. He took calculated risks which no others were willing or able to take.



    It was up to him what he did with his money. Only jealous or envious people care to pass judgement.
  • Reply 14 of 102
    galbigalbi Posts: 968member
    Great business man, horrible person.
  • Reply 15 of 102
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by joelsalt View Post


    While I agree with this, I would add that someone like Gates likely isn't leveraging his name in philanthropy for greater fame, but leveraging his name to help his cause. I.e. if Gates is running a charity it gets more media attention and more people interested in helping.



    So someone who is public isn't necesarily doing it for egotistic purposes.



    While I agree that is the case now, initially Gates' reputation was abysmal, and his philanthropic activities definitely helped to alleviate that. People forget the image that he had in the early 90's, and it's a very different image now.

    Don't get me wrong, he has done amazing things, I'm just pointing out the cause and effect and it was due to public opinion that he was donating initially.
  • Reply 16 of 102
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Further proof that Steve Jobs was a complete jerk⸮



    What a stupid comment
  • Reply 17 of 102
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by winstein2010 View Post


    I wish they would come up with the 1.1 version of the book. There were some technical mistakes (such as the "fast access time" for the NeXT optical drive. It should have been "slow access time"), and some chapters seemed rushed and some stories seemed out of sequence toward the end.



    I just wish Jacobson would have actually wrote his own book. To me, it felt like I was just re-reading "iWoz" and "Revolution in the Valley", often word-for-word, for most of it.
  • Reply 18 of 102
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Galbi View Post


    Great business man, horrible person.



    Right, because:



    1) You know him so well personally (I would bet you've never met him)

    2) Absent proof of him giving to charity, you just assume he didn't.



    The truth is that until very recently (last 20 years or so) , and absent a few outliers like Carnegie, it was standard operating procedure for corporations and rich people to donate anonymously. It's only recently that we have them insisting on getting advertising for their efforts or naming the stadium after them etc. If you have to crow about it, it isn't charity at all. It's you making a big deal about what a charitable person you are.
  • Reply 19 of 102
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,528member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    What somebody does with their money is nobody else's business.



    A lot of that philanthropy stuff is just a bunch of rich people seeking publicity for themselves. Who's to say that Steve Jobs didn't donate a bunch of money to various causes anonymously? Maybe he wasn't an attention seeking whore like some other people who give money away.



    And I also feel that the hurtful comments should have been included in the book, as hurtful comments always serve a purpose, otherwise they wouldn't have been made.



    When I become rich, one of my goals is to become an anti-philanthropist.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


    I think that is totally understandable and in character (as in 'good character'). Those that talk a lot about their philanthropy always make me very suspicious.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by nkhm View Post


    No, the exact opposite.



    A philanthropist doesn't help others for his own fame. True charity is given without personal fanfare.



    I agree with these views. In an article about bullshit yesterday, Steve Rushin of Sports Illustrated used the term "conspicuous pseudo-philanthropy". I believe this term is an apt description of the Buffett/Gates efforts. I like to think of it as the Camel through the Eye of a Needle project.
  • Reply 20 of 102
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,890member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Further proof that Steve Jobs was a complete jerk⸮



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Sector7G View Post


    What a stupid comment



    And this comes from an AI global moderator no less. Someone with the power to ban you if he so chooses. So watch out!
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