Jobs, on Leave From Apple, Reportedly Had Liver Transplant

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 21, 2009

In a possible answer to a health mystery that has had Silicon Valley chattering for months, a newspaper reported yesterday that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is recovering from a liver transplant.

The chief executive had announced in January that he would take a medical leave of absence from the company until the end of June.

"Steve continues to look forward to returning to Apple at the end of June," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said, "and there is nothing further to say."

For much of past year, Apple has downplayed or deflected questions about Jobs' health, even as his increasingly gaunt appearance began to alarm some investors and analysts. Shareholders have been critical of Apple for not being more transparent about his health issues. And Apple's share price plunged on the announcement about his leave.

Considered a visionary in the computer and consumer tech industry, Jobs has been viewed as central to Apple's string of blockbuster successes over the past several years.

Known for his keen attention to product design and aspirations to countercultural chic, Jobs has driven his engineers to develop simple products such as the iPod and iPhone that have won both aesthetic and technological praise.

With the exception of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, few corporate leaders are as fundamental to their company's identity as is Jobs.

In a memo to Apple employees sent in January, Jobs wrote that an unspecified illness had turned out to be "more complex than I originally thought" and that he was taking time off to focus on his health. Jobs, 54, is a survivor of pancreatic cancer, for which he was treated in 2004. Before he announced he would go on leave, Jobs had said he was suffering from a "hormone imbalance."

Jobs received the transplant two months ago in Tennessee, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, which did not identify its sources.

Apple's tight-lipped approach has raised questions about whether a health issue is private matter when an executive is seen as core to a company's survival.

"This follows a pattern of dissimulation that Apple engages in constantly," said Roger L. Kay of the tech research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. "Apple will not tell you the truth until they absolutely have to."

Key questions remain about Jobs' surgery and his prognosis. The five-year survival rate for liver-transplant patients is generally higher than 70 percent, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

During Jobs' absence, Apple has been led by the company's chief operating officer, Timothy D. Cook. Its stock has soared in recent months, and Cook has won the respect of Silicon Valley tech pundits.

Apples released its latest gadget, a new version of the iPhone, Friday.

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