Steve Jobs, the visionary and business mogul who has built Apple into what may be the world’s most powerful and autocratic company, has resigned as his company’s CEO, effective today. He is 56.
Even more than Seattle’s Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, two men whose business acumen with their respective companies has had inordinate influence on the nation and the world, Jobs has been uniquely lionized as the heart and soul of his company: quite possibly the most rock-star-like combination of the creative and commercial impulses imbued in one chief executive.
In a brief resignation letter, released today after the stock markets closed, Jobs said, “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.” Jobs requested he remain chairman of the board, a director, and “an Apple employee.”
Jobs indicated that Tim Cook, currently Apple’s chief operating officer, and effectively Jobs’ replacement during his long medical absences from the company — two of them in the last 7 years — should be named the company’s CEO. Jobs had been Apple's CEO for 14 years. In a press release, Apple announced Cook's appointment.
His letter effectively silenced ongoing criticism of the company about whether it had a succession plan in place: a constant concern due to Jobs’ fragile health, which caused him to take a medical leave of absence last January. The Wall Street Journal reported as recently as July 20 that some Apple board members had discussed a succession plan with both executive recruiters and at least one head of a high-profile technology company. Jobs was quoted in that article as saying “hogwash” to the report.
Less than two weeks ago, Apply briefly on paper became the most valuable company in the world, exceeding Exxon Mobile’s valuation. Apple is said to be worth $341 billion.
Cook, 50, has been running Apple’s day to day operations since Jobs took his medical leave, although Jobs has been reported to still be playing an active role in the company’s management. Most observers had speculated that Cook would be named to the top position if Jobs stepped down.
Whether Cook can have the same outsized influence as Jobs has yet to be determined. According to the Journal, people who know Cook see him as the consummate inside-the-company man whose expertise has been in making the company operationally fit. It has yet to be determined whether he has the creative powers of Jobs, whose influence on the amazing stream of game-changing products such as the iPad, iPhone and iPod has reshaped the global consumer market.
Late Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 24), Bloomberg reported that stock futures declined after Jobs’ resignation became known; Apple’s shared retreated 6.6 percent to $351.35, the Bloomberg report noted.
The current state of Jobs’ health is unknown: no surprise given the virtual secrecy with which he has handled his health issues — a privacy that has permeated the internal working of the company at all levels. It is known he had surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004 and had a liver transplant in early 2009, but few other details have emerged regarding his health. Nor has any reason emerged from any source as to what prompted Jobs to make his startling announcement today.