(UPDATE, with details and background)
Steve Jobs has had a liver transplant during his medical leave but is expected to return to work later this month as planned, the Wall Street Journal reports. His medical leave was announced to a shocked Apple community in January.
The Journal cited no source in particular for its story, and got no direct comment from Apple. It quoted a “a person familiar with the thinking at Apple” that Jobs would have a diminished schedule at first when he returns to work and also reported that “At least some Apple directors were aware of the CEO’s surgery” as part of an agreement Jobs made with the board before he went on leave.
The Journal said the surgery took place two months ago in Tennessee, where there are three facilities that can perform such a procedure, there is no residency requirement and the wait is among the shortest in the country. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the transplant network in the United States, the five-year survival rate for liver-transplants patients is generally between about 73 percent and 76 percent.
The subject of Jobs’ health has been a front-burner item since he announced, on Aug. 1, 2004, that he had undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer. Over the course of last year, it was apparent that he was losing weight, but neither he nor the company would directly address this painfully evident fact.
On January 5, Jobs told the Apple community in an open letter that the cause of his weight loss was not a recurrence of his pancreatic cancer but a treatable hormone imbalance. In that letter, Jobs said he had already begun a “relatively simple and straightforward” treatment for the condition, that he would remain on as Apple CEO during his recovery, and that he expected to be noticeably improved in a matter of months.
Nine days later Jobs dropped the other shoe.
“… during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought,” he wrote in an e-mail to Apple employees. “In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.”
Since then, COO Tim Cook has been running day-to-day operations, though the Journal has reported that Jobs was maintaining a “firm grip” on the company and involving himself in projects of his choosing, and that he had also shown up at work from time to time.
Apple shares have improved in Jobs’ absence. AAPL closed at $85.33 on Jan. 15, the first day of trading after he announced his medical leave, and closed at $139.48 on Friday, the day the new iPhone 3 GS went on sale — about a 63 percent gain. During the same period, the NASDAQ has declined by 4 percent. Without Jobs fully at the helm, the company held a successful if lackluster WWDC and launched the third-generation iPhone.
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