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It would not be surprising if long-time Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) investors still feel burned by the way the company handled the health problems of founder and former CEO Steve Jobs.
Though the "risk factors" section of the company's annual report had noted that "the Company’s success depends largely on the continued service and availability of key personnel … including its CEO," Apple left investors largely in the dark when Jobs' health began to falter. A Huffington Post article from just after Jobs' passing highlights the extent to which investors' knowledge of Jobs' condition was informed mainly by rumor and speculation for years.
That's hardly the only way for a company to handle an executive's illness, and communications-equipment company Tellabs (Nasdaq: TLAB ) is proving that right now. Back in April, CEO Rob Pullen, through a very frank letter to Tellabs investors and other stakeholders, revealed that he had been diagnosed with, and was undergoing treatment for, colon cancer. Pullen expressed optimism about his condition and concluded, "I’ll let you know if my health situation changes. I appreciate your understanding and support."
On Wednesday, investors did indeed get an update, by way of a letter from Tellabs chairman Michael Birck. He wrote that "Rob has been continuing treatment for cancer, and he recently had surgery. He remains in the hospital in stable condition and is under continuing care for his recovery." He also added that executive vice president Dan Kelly would be stepping in during Pullen's absence.
This isn't a totally unheard-of approach to keeping investors in the loop. Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) CEO Warren Buffett also announced in April that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He delivered a letter to shareholders, similarly promising to keep them up- to-date on his condition.
While the desire for privacy is certainly understandable, particularly when it comes to sensitive health matters, Pullen's openness about his health shows that he recognizes what's at stake for all of those involved with Tellabs – investors, for sure, but also customers, suppliers, and employees. This approach should certainly earn Pullen and Tellabs a gold star for transparency.
Always fans of strong and transparent corporate governance practices, we here at The Motley Fool applaud Tellabs and Rob Pullen for their handling of this difficult situation. Above all, though, we wish Rob a full and speedy recovery.