If the Mafia Ran Apple & Microsoft

I recently interviewed Kurt Luchs, a humor writer whose works have been published by The Onion, The New Yorker, Slate, and McSweeney's. He's the author of Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: A Wiseguy's Guide to the Workplace, a book that takes quotes from classic movies such as The Godfather and TV shows such as The Sopranos and translates them into business lessons. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.

Chris Hill: At The Motley Fool, we love to study great businesses and great leaders, so let me give you a couple of names and I want you to draw the comparison. Give me this person's equivalent in film noir.  Let's start with Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) CEO, Steve Jobs. Who is the wiseguy equivalent for Steve Jobs?

Kurt Luchs: He is a tough character; he's complicated, isn't he? Honestly, if I had to equate him to somebody, I think it would be Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos. Steve is a guy who has got one foot in the Apple family business, and he has got one foot in show business, and he can't decide if he wants to put out iPhones or executive-produce the next Pixar movie.

Hill: Let's go with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) CEO Steve Ballmer. From a physical standpoint, he is a bit like Tony Soprano. They are both big guys. I don't know if that holds up from their business-leadership standpoint.

Luchs: No, you know, he doesn't strike me as Tony Soprano. To me, he is more of a Tom Hagen. He is a guy that at one point gets put in charge of the family, but is he really? Is he really up to it? Personally, I don't think so.

Hill: You think there's going to come a point where just like Michael Corleone comes back and tells Tom "You're out," Bill Gates is just going to wrestle the reins of the business back from Steve Ballmer?

Luchs: I don't know if that will happen, but Bill Gates really is a lot like Michael. He is this guy who spent his life in this cutthroat business and is generally conceded to be one of the most cutthroat people within his field of computers and software. And yet, now at this point in his life, he is looking for redemption. He is like Michael Corleone in Godfather III, sitting on a folding chair outside the Vatican somewhere.

Chris owns shares of Microsoft, a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is gonna make you an offer you can't refuse.


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  • Report this Comment On July 29, 2010, at 8:36 PM, DefunctAcct wrote:

    Good characterization of Ballmer. He is not up to the job.

    Gates was a cut-throat businessman handed an opportunity of a lifetime to make a killing. He took full advantage of it. He was no technical visionary or guru as some would like to believe.

    Jobs is putting out Pixar movies and shipping iPad and iPhone. There is no such thing as Jobs "cannot" decide.

    Of the three, who is the visionary and the better leader? It should be obvious.

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2010, at 9:23 AM, shivy1 wrote:

    Gates made this company, and only Gates can save this company.

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2010, at 12:40 PM, charlesbogle wrote:

    Steve Jobs is the classic renaissance man. Apparently he can do anything. Gates was the right guy at the right time and knew how to seize an opportunity. Jobs has created all of his opportunities. The word genius should not be tossed around lightly, but if it applies to anyone it applies to Jobs.

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