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CEO of Apple: Steve Jobs takes a Sick Leave

steve jobs
Steve Jobs

Apple’s Steve Jobs will be taking a medical leave of absence but will remain CEO of the company, involved in strategic decision-making.

Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook will assume responsibility for the company’s day-to-day operations.

This would be Jobs’ second medical leave in several years. He took a leave in the first half of 2009 to deal with issues related to his cancer treatment.

Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor, sent an e-mail to employees regarding the medical leave and company operations in his absence. Here’s the text of that e-mail, provided by Apple

Apple Media Advisory

Apple CEO Steve Jobs today sent the following email to all Apple employees:

Team,

At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple’s day to day operations. I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011.

I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.

Steve

In January 2009 Jobs said he was suffering from a hormone imbalance that was impeding his body’s ability to absorb certain proteins, and said he would take six months to recover. In April, Jobs underwent liver transplant surgery, and returned to work by early July. Cook was the one to step in running the day-to-day operations of the company during that leave as well, guiding the company through the launch of the iPhone 3GS, as well as some of the final stages of the production of the iPad.

In the months preceding that announcement two years ago, Jobs’ health was the topic of intense speculation when during an appearance at the 2008 Worldwide Developers Conference he appeared to have lost a lot of weight. Apple and Jobs rebuffed any questions on the matter, calling his health a “private matter.”

No such speculation led up to today’s announcement. Jobs has made regular appearances in support of new Apple products, most recently at an October event introducing the latest MacBook Air. He was supposed to appear at an event with Rupert Murdoch in San Francisco this week to announce the launch of The Daily, an iPad-only newspaper, but the event was rescheduled late last week.

Though his immediate health was no longer a major focal point with the press or the public, the topic of who will take over for Jobs at Apple remains a hot one with investors. Many investors feel Jobs can never truly be replaced as CEO, since his vision and persona are so fundamentally linked with the company, but Apple has been criticized for not publicly grooming a successor. Just recently it came to light that Apple’s board of directors had fielded a stockholder request that Apple make its succession plan public knowledge. Apple refused, saying that privately there is a established a plan in place and disclosing it to the public and competitors would damage the company’s ability to retain and recruit top executive talent.

Since his return to Apple in 1997, Jobs has rebuilt the company he founded from near bankruptcy to the most influential consumer electronics company in the world. With more than $50 billion in the bank, Apple now has the second-highest market capitalization of all but one other company in the world, ExxonMobil. Beyond the Mac lineup of desktops and laptops, Jobs has transitioned the company into the entertainment business with iTunes and the iPod, and into a leading mobile phone maker with the iPhone. Last year, Apple introduced the touchscreen iPad, which has created a third mobile device category and a success there that all Apple’s competitors have recently flocked to try to reproduce.

Jobs did not give a time frame for his return this time around, which could indicate he doesn’t plan to be away from Apple very long. In 2009, he said at the beginning he would step away for six months.

Cook capably handled the reins during that time. While Jobs was away, Apple delivered two back-to-back blow-out quarters, as well as an updated iPhone OS, and new iPhone hardware. Under Cook, Apple also put the finishing touches on the company’s new iPods, MacBooks, and Mac OS, which were released shortly after Jobs’ return to the helm in late June.

He was rewarded handsomely for keeping Apple on track, getting a bonus of $5 million plus 75,000 stock options for his work filling in for Jobs during the first half of 2009. He is Jobs’ most trusted executive, handling all earnings calls with Wall Street investors and analysts for the last few years, and has had an increasingly larger role at major product introductions. Cook most recently appeared on behalf of Apple last week alongside Verizon executives in New York City to announce the first iPhone that works on Verizon’s network.

Cook, 50, joined Apple in 1998 and was promoted to COO in 2004. It was at Cook’s behest that Apple pulled of out building its own products and moved to contract manufacturers like Foxconn and others, reducing the company’s inventory and drastically improving its margins.

The stock market is closed today for a federal holiday. Apple is scheduled to report its first quarter fiscal 2011 earnings tomorrow after 1 p.m.