Steve Jobs is sick.
After markets closed Wednesday, Apple released a statement indicating its CEO, Jobs, will relinquish his top post due to health concerns—and so he can stop distracting his employees.
"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," he wrote to employees.
The company’s stock price plunged Wednesday in after-hours trading.
This comes just one week after he issued a statement insisting he was a little under the weather due to a “hormone imbalance,” but otherwise just fine.
But is his health—the health of the man who invented the iMac, iPod and iPhone—a public matter?
Here’s a little background.
In 2004, doctors treated Jobs for a less lethal form of pancreatic cancer. Although even after treatment of this form of cancer, patients live an average of five years, according to a feature story in the October issue of Esquire magazine.
That story, which is about Jobs, talked of his recent, and notable, weight loss—weight loss that sparked rumor about his ill health back in June.
So who thinks Jobs health is everyone’s business? Lots of people, particularly Apple shareholders. They’re not heartless; it’s just that his health affects Apple’s stock price.
“There is a big Jobs premium in the stock price,” John A. Byrne, editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 5. “At least 25% or more. His health is news.”
Problem is Jobs, and his PR machine, think his health should be kept private. To meet this goal, they have been—to put it kindly—less than straight-forward. For example, back in June, Apple’s PR pros blamed their boss’s notable weight loss on a “common bug,” The New York Times said.
That claim was false, according to Times reporter Joe Nocera. “By claiming Mr. Jobs had a bug, Apple wasn’t just going dark on its shareholders,” he said. “It was deceiving them.”
And now this: news that Jobs will take a medical leave of absence one week after he said he was basically OK and stressed to anyone who cared to listen, “I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.”
Apple shareholders deserve to know more—and Jobs should let his PR people tell them.