By Ray Fleming

TWO very different American business leaders have announced their withdrawal from the front line in the past few days. The better known is Steve Jobs, who as CEO took Apple from near bankruptcy to the most valuable company in the world. Known as “the patron saint of perfectionism” Jobs found that his battle with cancer was preventing him from contributing to his company as he wanted and decided to take a back seat.

He has been a visionary product innovator and a marketer of genius; the iPad has seemed to be the culmination of an extraordinary career. Mr Jobs named his long collaborator Tim Cooke as his successor but the markets' immediate response to the news was to wipe ten million dollars off Apple's value. The second name is Deven Sharmer, the president of the rating agency Standard & Poor's which recently downgraded America's debt rating by reducing its long-standing Triple A status. The company insisted that Mr Sharmer's resignation was not connected with the controversy that followed his company's unprecedented action, but few people will believe that. The judgement of Standard & Poor's in the early stages of the 2008/09 financial crisis contributed to its severity and its most recent misjudgement caused worldwide market unease. Mr Sharmer will not be missed -- nor, many believe, would these agencies' questionable involvement in the higher of international finance.