According to numerous news sources, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said today that he will be taking a leave of absence because of health issues. The leave of absence is expected to last until at least June.
“My health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought,” he said in a letter to employees which has been published by the New York Times.
From the statement:
I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.
In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.
I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple’s day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.
I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.
Apple has confirmed that CEO Steve Jobs will step down from his CEO post while recuperating from a hormone imbalance. His absence will stretch until the end of June.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, will run the company during Jobs’ absence, according an e-mail Jobs sent to Apple employees that was released to the media.
Jobs, 53, has been the subject of heated speculation regarding his health since last June’s Worldwide Developers Conference, when he appeared to have lost a great deal of weight. At the time, Apple insisted Jobs’ health was a private matter, but revealed in early January that Jobs was suffering from a hormone imbalance that was impeding his body’s ability to absorb certain proteins.
In August 2004 Jobs underwent successful surgery to treat a rare form of pancreatic cancer, which sidelined him until September of that year. Much of the speculation over the past year has been over whether or not that cancer has returned, which was not clear from the e-mail written by Jobs, an intensely private man.
Since his return to Apple in 1997, the mercurial founder has resurrected Apple from the depths, reviving the Mac, changing the music industry with the introduction of the iPod and iTunes, and turning the mobile phone industry on its head with the 2007 introduction of the iPhone. He is considered to be one of the single-most influential executives in the technology industry, if not U.S. business itself.
Apple has been criticized over the past few years for seeming to lack a succession plan for Jobs, who some feel can truly never be replaced. But it has never been clear whether the company was just playing its cards close to its vest regarding that plan, or whether it actually didn’t have a plan. Cook has been regarded as the short-term solution for a long time, having run the company during Jobs’ absence in 2004 and respected as a detail-oriented manager who can keep the ship on course.
Jobs, who announced last week that he suffered from a hormone imbalance that was caused him to lose weight, said he will be away from the job until the end of June.
“In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June,” Jobs said in a statement.
Tim Cook, the company’s chief operating officer, will be responsible for Apple’s day to day operations, according to the statement.
Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) shares closed down $2.38 to $85.33 in Wednesday trading. They were halted after hours pending the announcement.
Apple seems to have learned from Bill Clinton. Like our randy former chief executive being questioned about his sex life, Apple handled Steve Jobs’ ongoing health problems by making statements that were literally true, but ultimately misleading. That’s going to have Apple watchers taking a microscope to every statement and action by Apple to find out what the company really means. But Apple watchers already are doing that, so Apple doesn’t lose out.
Ever since Jobs made a gaunt appearance at the launch of the iPhone 3G this summer, Apple has been stonewalling about the founder and CEO’s health, while rumors flew about the recurrence of the cancer he was treated for in 2004. The rumors went into hyperdrive in December, when Apple announced abruptly that it was pulling out of Macworld and Jobs wasn’t speaking.
Finally, Jobs posted a statement on the Apple site last week. He acknowledged he had a “hormone imbalance” that caused him to lose weight throughout 2008. He says it’s being treated, and that he expects to regain his lost weight by spring.
That contrasts with Apple’s earlier statement, on Dec. 16, announcing that this year would be Apple’s last Macworld, and Jobs would not deliver his traditional keynote. At the time, Apple cited only business reasons for the withdrawal, saying trade shows have become a “very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers.”
The statement didn’t mention Jobs’ health. As a matter of fact, it didn’t mention Jobs at all — it just said that Philip Schiller, Apple senior VP of worldwide product marketing, will deliver the keynote, a job which has been Jobs’ for a decade.
Is Jobs’ health anyone’s business? Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg, and other Apple defenders, say no, it’s a private matter. I disagree. Jobs’ health is relevant as long as he has chosen to make himself a public figure. He is the face and spokesman for Apple, credited with its current success, and the company has no visible plan for succession. Investors identify Apple’s success with Jobs, and they’re afraid every time they think Jobs might become incapable of running the company. We see those fears when Apple’s stock drops every time Jobs sneezes or stubs a toe.
If you are the CEO of a publicly traded company, anything that might affect your abilities to perform your duties is a matter of public record. That most emphatically includes your health. Don’t like those rules? Retire. Take the company private.
And Jobs isn’t just any CEO of any public company. Jobs has chosen to make himself the public face of Apple. He has worked to build a mystique around Apple, and focused that mystique on himself as its charismatic leader. If Jobs wants to take a piece of his privacy back, the company needs to be more communicative, and put other people in front of the cameras and microphone more frequently. (Indeed, this may be one of the motivations for Schiller taking over the Macworld keynote.) Until then, Jobs’ health is going to continue to be a matter of public concern.