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.
As I write this, Apple's stock is trading right around the 52-week low [$79.30] and speculation is rampant about what this means for one of the most beloved technology companies on the planet.
A lot of people are incredulous at the thought that Jobs' illness has been kept quiet. I, on the other hand, STRONGLY believe that all things being equal, a person has an undeniable right to privacy when it comes to their health. Sure, Jobs has a fiduciary duty as CEO of Apple, but to that end he only really has a responsibility to assure the board of directors that any illness doesn't impair his ability to perform his duties. Beyond that, as long as the board is satisfied, it's NONE OF OUR BUSINESS.
I've heard all the arguments to the contrary...
- Jobs IS Apple
- Much of the company's valuation is tied to Jobs specifically
- Jobs made his medical history fair game when he came public 5 years ago about his first bout with pancreatic cancer
- Jobs' celebrity expands the boundaries of what should be "fair game"
The Duty to be Truthful
While I dismiss the arguments as to why he owed Apple shareholders, customers and employees an open book into his health, the right to privacy doesn't obfuscate the requirement for honesty. Over the last year, as Jobs' appeared to have lost weight; the market began postulating that Jobs' cancer may have returned. The sad truth is that pancreatic cancer is rarely survivable. From the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research:
According to the American Cancer Society, for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year relative survival rate is 20%, and the five-year rate is 4%. These low survival rates are attributable to the fact that fewer than 10% of patients' tumors are confined to the pancreas at the time of diagnosis; in most cases, the malignancy has already progressed to the point where surgical removal is impossible.
In those cases where resection can be performed, the average survival rate is 18 to 20 months. The overall five-year survival rate is about 10%, although this can rise as high as 20% to 25% if the tumor is removed completely and when cancer has not spread to lymph nodes.
So while it's morbidly understandable that Apple onlookers would start fearing the worst, Jobs didn't owe us any explanation. So where's the problem? He went ahead and gave us an explanation...
Dear Apple Community,
For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.
Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.
I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.
As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.
Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause—a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.
The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.
I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.
So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.
And therein lies the problem. I have NO IDEA if Jobs is being truthful here, but a lot of people are asking questions. Once he gave an explanation for his weight loss in a public forum, and attributed it to hormonal imbalances, he's opened the door. And more importantly, some stakeholders will have construed his January 5th memo as an assurance that his health wasn't really a problem. Yet, just two weeks later, he's stepping away from day-to-day operations.
What does the future hold for Jobs? I don't know, but I sincerely hope he's back at the helm in July as promised. Not because I'm worried about what might happen to Apple in his absence, but because I want to see him triumph against a deadly disease that so few overcome. In the meantime, the world is going to finally come to terms with how much of Apple is really tied to one man, versus the other 31,999 employees on the payroll.
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