Apple CEO Steve Jobs told employees Wednesday he is taking a leave of absence because of health issues. “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,” Jobs wrote in a letter to staff. “In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.”
Jobs said he will be off duty until June, and COO Tim Cook will serve as interim CEO. The announcement shortly follows a letter published last week by the CEO, in which he cited a hormone imbalance as the cause for his noticeable weight loss. In that letter, Jobs said he was undergoing a “relatively simple and straightforward” treatment. However, scientists told Wired.com that Jobs’ explanation was contradictory and made little sense.
The five-month duration of Jobs’ medical leave suggests his health is in more serious condition than in the past. In 2004, Jobs sent a similar letter to staff saying he was taking a one-month medical leave to undergo surgery.
“I think Steve has done just a magnificent job for the shareholders and the company,” said Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple evangelist. “Right now we should leave him alone.”
“Steve has done more than enough — more than anyone could possibly expect,” Kawasaki added. “Let him take his leave and come back when he can.”
Journalists, investors and Mac fans alike have been discussing Jobs’ health for the past year, noting his gaunt appearance when he spoke at conferences. This led many to speculate that Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, was getting ready to step down due to deteriorating health.
Though Jobs acknowledges his health problems, neither he nor Apple have named the disease or condition plaguing him. Vijay Rakesh, a ThinkPanmure analyst, said though Wednesday’s news may come as a shocker to investors, it should come as no surprise that Jobs’ health appears to be in trouble.
“I think it’s a little bit of a seesaw,” said Vijay Rakesh, a ThinkPanmure analyst. “One day everything is good and the next day everything is bad…. What he’s indicating is it needs more urgent attention.”
Analysts continue to debate over the CEO’s impact on Apple if he were to leave the company. Gene Munster, a Piper Jaffray analyst, said in the end, a Jobs-less Apple will have no effect on the company’s product innovation. “From a consumer experience standpoint it won’t change anything,” Munster said. “But it definitely does impact people’s perception of Apple because he’s an irreplaceable salesman.”
However, Roger Kay, an Endpoint Technologies analyst, said Apple will be dramatically affected if Jobs leaves the company. “Whatever the condition of Steve’s health, his cancer has caused a certain amount of soul searching by the company,” Kay said. “How do you replace the maestro? The paradox of the dictatorial personality is that it can’t replicate itself. Genghis Khan’s empire was gone 130 years after it was created…. So, a big question mark relates to how the product development process will work once he’s out of the picture.”
In after-hours trading, the Apple stock is down $7.61, or 7.6 percent, to $78.76 as of 5.03 p.m. EST.
Jobs’ full letter is below the jump.
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.