Apple’s Jobs: Condition Won’t Hinder CEO Duties

Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Source: Reuters

In a public letter released today, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs sought to dispel some of the persistent rumors surrounding his health — while admitting that he’s recovering from what he described as a hormone imbalance.

The Apple chief also pledged he would be the first to announce if there comes a time he can’t run the company, a nod to ongoing speculation about whether Apple and Jobs, a cancer survivor, had been hushing up information about his health and his ability to oversee Apple.

“I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now,” Jobs wrote. “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.”

The Apple Board of Directors also issued a letter stating that if and when Jobs retires, or can’t fulfill his duties, the company will make an announcement.

“It is widely recognized both inside and outside of Apple that Steve Jobs is one of the most talented and effective CEOs in the world. As we have said before, if there ever comes a day when Steve wants to retire or for other reasons cannot continue to fulfill his duties as Apple’s CEO, you will know it,” the Apple board stated in its letter.

It’s the latest turn of events for a subject that for months has been a source of concern, speculation and rumormongering throughout the industry and the blogosphere.

Jobs’ dramatically thinner appearance at Apple’s annual developers’ conference in June initially sparked debate about whether he had been suffering either from complications from his 2004 pancreatic cancer surgery, or from a reappearance of his cancer. Apple, notoriously closed-mouth about the health of its chief executive, said at that time that Jobs had been fighting a “common bug” and was taking antibiotics.

Hormonal imbalance

Jobs’ letter today, released hours before the start of the annual Macworld Conference and Expo, explained that Jobs is undergoing treatment for the condition that resulted in that weight loss, which he attributed to a “nutritional problem.”

“As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008,” he wrote. “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.”

Jobs, who has often been reluctant to publicly address the rumors about his health, added that he expects it will take him until late Spring to regain his lost weight — and indicated that no further comments would be forthcoming.

“I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this,” he added.

Apple spokespeople did not return’s requests for additional comment by press time.

Jobs’ letter comes just a week after an online blogging frenzy prompted by rumors on a blog site that the Apple CEO had backed out of his annual keynote at Macworld because he was ailing. (Apple’s earlier move to replace Jobs’ speaking slot at Macworld with Philip Schiller, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, had been similarly viewed as a sign that Jobs might be unwell. It’s the first time since 1997 that Jobs will not be the keynote speaker.)

Later reports contradicted the rumor, citing that the Apple CEO had been out and about visiting his favorite yogurt store.

Last week’s Jobs-watching marked just the latest frenzy to have taken hold since the executive’s controversial appearance at Apple’s 2008 Worldwide Developers Conference. Such rumors have persisted in part because bloggers and industry watchers maintain that Apple has a reputation for being slow in updating the public on Jobs’ health: His October 2003 diagnosis of pancreatic cancer wasn’t disclosed until after his surgery in July of the following year.

Earlier in the year, a fake posting to CNN’s iReport site claimed that Jobs had suffered a heart attack, prompting a new flurry of rumors.

While Apple’s share price took a hit last week on the newest round of Jobs health rumors, shares of AAPL were trading up 4.34 percent today at press time, at $94.69.

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