Reed Hastings spent a few months in the proverbial dog house after separating Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s DVD by mail business from the streaming segment to be renamed “Qwikster.” Up to that point Hastings enjoyed a practically flawless reputation as a visionary genius. He quickly responded to the backlash and made some modifications. After Netflix’s January earnings surprise and announcement of 2 million new subscribers, it looks as though Hastings has adroitly polished off his lightly tarnished reputation.
Since Carl Icahn acquired an approximately 10% stake in Netflix, rumors were swirling about who might be a potential suitor for Netflix, driving the stock price higher. Hastings and Netflix adopted a “poison pill” to prevent a hostile takeover of Netflix without the Board’s approval, so it was clear that Hastings had no plans to participate in a “shotgun wedding.”
Given Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s present ferments, a search for a new CEO being announced is not unthinkable. But that would leave us pondering the question of who could do any better at replacing the late, great legend Steve Jobs?
Most recognize that computer geeks or engineers often lack business acumen and are often not regarded as “visionaries.” Jobs, who started out his career designing video games at Atari, was of a rare ilk that encapsulate both talents. Despite his genius and leadership skills, his biography demonstrates that he had failures and made mistakes along the way. The part of his career when he was forced to resign from the company he co-founded (Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) of course) and the details of the floundering company he started after Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) (Next Inc.) all but faded away since his grand slam with Pixar Animation and his triumphal re-entry to Apple in 1997.
How many executives are out there who share any similar characteristics as a potential Jobs-like visionary?
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings began his career as a software engineer, and also embodies visionary and leadership skills. Like Jobs, he worked for other software companies and went on to found his own company called Pure Software. Pure Software was taken public by Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) and later acquired. Like Jobs, Hastings learned from his experience and went on to later revolutionize an industry.