Steven Paul Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, was a schmuck in many ways but to the core of what we are, mostly from his family law actions.
When he was 17, he met Ms Chrisann Brennan in high school. They dated on again, off again. Later, when Jobs attended university, they indulged in narcotics and Zen Buddhism.
By 1975, Steve Jobs was working at Atari and they were still dating. In November 1977, Steve had already started Apple when Ms Brennan discovered she was pregnant. They were both just 23 years old.
Jobs, who was adopted himself, rather than embrace his girlfriend's situation, first ignored and later denied it. But Ms Brennan knew he had to be the father and told him so.
Still, Steve Jobs, genius, remained cold, distant, uncaring, defiant ... aka a calculating coward.
His iMoment? He pressed her for an abortion. She refused and had a baby girl on May 17, 1978, Lisa Brennan. Jobs was present shortly after the birth and would have noticed some similar features of the infant such as the dark hair and other features. Still, it did not attract any paternal emotion in him. He literally drove away, abandoning mother and his newborn child, who were forced to apply for, and live off welfare in Menlo Park, California.
The Menlo Park welfare authorities made their own investigations, took subrogated child support rights from Ms Brennan, located and sued Steve Jobs for child support.
Again, it will forever be the legacy of Steve Jobs that in legal documents, he aggressively denied paternity. According to Fortune Magazine, Jobs swore an affidavit saying that he was:
"... sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child".
His other approach was to paint Ms Brennan as promiscuous - that the baby could be anybody's. Already, Apple was doing well especially since the launch of Apple II, so Jobs had become known to the media. Approached by one reporter about the paternity case, he remarked that:
"28% of the male population in the United States could be the father."
It was not only a comment telling of his moral compass, but also a horrible, permanent stain on the reputation of the mother of his child, and all for the sake of avoiding child support.
But ironically, Steve Jobs, adamant deadbeat, was ultimately done in by technology. Affordable DNA paternity testing was making tentative forays into family law as a tool of evidence. The results proved that Jobs was the father of baby Lisa.
Then, suddenly, for reasons only later fully understood, he suddenly agreed to a consent order based on his income at the time. He was ordered to pay $385 a month in child support and reimburse the government for back welfare payments.
He was also given access rights but did not exercise them.
The fact is, he made no attempt to visit his daughter Lisa for years. But later, discreetly and to his credit, he paid the flat amount of child support and even bought the mother a small house and paid for some education expenses for Lisa. This, given his modus operandi, likely to discourage the mother from seeking to vary the terms of the child support order as Jobs' growing fortune soon became a matter of public knowledge.
Many years later, it was discovered that his sudden endorsement of the court process was no accident. It was signed just before Apple, then writing a tremendous wave of consumer popularity, pushing a personal computer craze in full swing, went public with a share offering. Steve Jobs, on the day of the share issue, December 12, 1980, was suddenly worth $256 million. If this net worth have been put to the court in the child support case, his monthly payments would have been substantially more - a fact not lost on this clever father.
"Jobs was not naïve. He made sure his deal with Chrisann Brennan was signed before the IPO (initial public offering of Apple shares) occurred."
In the late fall of 1982, Time Magazine found out about his love child while during research doing for an article which would name Jobs as Man of the Year; and that he was ignoring his daughter. When the article was published, Jobs' reaction was to berate the employee who had confirmed the rumor. That employee, Daniel Kottle, was Job's close personal friend, but was denied a share of the founder stock in Apple, a retaliatory measure by Jobs which would literally cost Kottle a fortune.
A Deadbeat Sequel
With the ultimate success and technological genius of this father and Apple products (iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook), and the more recent images of an emaciated cancer-struck Steve Jobs, the world has apparently forgiven him for his abusive response to his paternity.
The fact is that in his daughter's younger years, she almost never saw her father - his choice, not her's.
Circa 1989, a girlfriend, Tina Redse, is credited with gently coaxing the billionaire into his paternal responsibilities and he began seeing Lisa more.
Later, when his daughter was a teenager, and Jobs had begun sporadic visitations with her, Lisa did what many teenagers do when they don't like the rules in the custodial parent's house: she asked to live with her rich and famous father. He acquiesced. She change her surname to Brennan-Jobs and spent four years at her father's residence in Palo Alto, California, being a big sister to the four children Jobs was bringing into the world with his new wife, Laurene Powell.
The father daughter relationship was "tumultuous", on-again, off-again, right up to Steve Jobs death from cancer, at the age of 56, on October 5, 2011. At the time, Forbes Magazine has estimated the value of his estate at $7 billion.
Lisa Brennan, 32, living in New York City, and her mother Chrisann Brennan, residing in San Francisco, share much in common with so many children of fathers and sometimes of mothers, who go out of their way to avoid their responsibilities towards their children, deadbeats.
But at least for Lisa, there is a silver lining in the benefits she has received and will still receive from being the daughter of one of the richest men in the world.
- Duell, Mark, A Father He Never Knew, a Love-child he Once Denied and a Sister he Only Met as an Adult: The Tangled Family of Steve Jobs... and who Could Inherit his $8.3 billion Fortune, The Daily Mail, London, October 7, 2011 [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2046031/Steve-Jobs-death-Apple-boss-tangled-family-inherit-8-3bn-fortune.html]
- Elkind, Peter, The Trouble With Steve Jobs, Fortune magazine, March 2008 [http://money.cnn.com/2008/03/02/news/companies/elkind_jobs.fortune/index.htm]
- Isaacson, Walter, Steve Jobs (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011)