Silicon Valley legend Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave for an undisclosed condition since Jan. 17, resigned as chief executive of Apple today, saying he could “no longer meet my duties and expectations.”Interim CEO Tim Cook was immediately elevated to CEO, while Jobs, 55, will stay on as chairman of the board.
“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs said in a letter to “the Apple community” that was released by the company. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”
While the move was stunning, it was not entirely unexpected.
Jobs had been seen only rarely this year, including at a San Francisco event in March where he unveiled Apple’s iPad 2, the hugely successful follow-on to its hugely successful tablet computer.
“His health clearly wasn’t’ improving and there was going to come a time when he was going to have to set aside,” said Rob Enderle, longtime technology analyst with Enderle Group.
Still, Enderle said it will be a blow for the company. The company’s stock fell about 5 percent in after-hours trading after the news was announced, shortly after 6:30 p.m.
“Apple was designed around Steve Jobs, so there was really never going to be a great time for this,” Enderle said.
Jobs has suffered from health problems for at least seven years. In 2004 he took a leave of absence to get treatment for pancreatic cancer.
In January 2009 he took another leave, and it was later revealed that he received a liver transplant.
Cook, who has been at the company for 13 years, is widely respected as a strong No. 2 leader but hardly the visionary that Jobs is.
“He’s not that kind of a person and invariably that’s going to be a weakness,” Enderle said.
Jobs’ story is virtually unparalleled in the annals of American business.
Pushed out of the company he co-founded in the mid-1980s, Jobs went on to found Pixar Animation Studios, the force behind some of Hollywood’s most successful animated films. That company alone made Jobs a billionaire and was eventually acquired by the Walt Disney Co.
Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in the mid-1990s and presided over a string of hit products, refashioning the company as a maker of consumer products and integrated services including the iPhone and iPad as well as laptops and desktop computers.
The company’s high-flying stock has more than tripled in value since 2009 and now Apple rivals Exxon Mobil as the most valuable American company with a market capitalization of nearly $350 billion.
Jobs’ resignation marks storied career
“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” said Apple board member Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech.
Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world class executive team,” Levinson said in a statement. “In his new role as Chairman of the Board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.”
Enderle said he’s already heard of some Apple employees who left once it became apparent Jobs was not going to be able to return. He expects that will become a more significant issue for the company in about two years, when the current cycle of products starts to wind down.
As COO, Cook was previously responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations, including end-to-end management of Apple’s supply chain, sales activities, and service and support in all markets and countries. He also headed Apple’s Macintosh division and played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships, ensuring flexibility in response to an increasingly demanding marketplace.
Here is Jobs’ letter to the Apple board of directors:
To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:
I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.
I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.
As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.
I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.
I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.