Apple execs stay mum on Jobs's health

Apple executives shed little additional light on the medical condition that has sidelined CEO Steve Jobs.

Apple executives offered no new information about the health of CEO Steve Jobs during the company's first-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, which came as a report surfaced that US regulators are reviewing Apple's public statements about his medical issues.

Jobs said last week that he would take a leave of absence until the end of June for medical reasons. He said his condition is "more complex" than he thought when he revealed on Jan. 5 that his recent weight loss was the result of a hormone imbalance. Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook is managing Apple's day-to-day operations in Jobs's absence.

"Steve is CEO of Apple and plans to remain involved in major strategic decisions, and Tim will be responsible for day-to-day" operations, Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's CFO, said during Wednesday's conference call, essentially repeating what the company said last week.

Asked whether he would take over permanently should Jobs become unable to do his job, Cook said a strong company culture at Apple means it could do well under many of the current executives.

"The values of our company are extremely well-entrenched. We believe we're on the face of this earth to make great products, and that's not changing," he said. "Regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well."

Jobs had surgery in 2004 for pancreatic cancer. Last year, his gaunt appearance spurred rumors that the charismatic CEO might have had a recurrence of ill health. The intense speculation has generated debate over how much detail public companies should disclose about their leaders' medical issues to shareholders.

According to a Bloomberg report Wednesday, the US Securities Exchange Commission is examining Apple's public statements about Jobs' health to determine whether the company misled investors. The report, which cited an unnamed source "familiar with the matter," said the review does not mean the SEC has seen evidence of wrongdoing. The SEC declined to comment on the report.

It is unclear how much detail others in the company know about Jobs's condition, but he sought to reassure employees and shareholders that the board is behind him. "As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out," he wrote in last week's letter to employees. "Our board of directors fully supports this plan."

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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