That didn't last long.
Just 10 days after announcing that he had a "hormonal imbalance" that was robbing his body of protein, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) co-founder Steve Jobs on Wednesday said he plans to take medical leave till June. Tim Cook, Apple's COO, will assume day-to-day leadership of Apple in Jobs' absence, although Jobs will keep the title of CEO and remain involved in major strategic decisions.
You call that disclosure?
Investors, not surprisingly, sold on the news. They know Jobs is the creative force behind the iEmpire's products. He's more important to Apple than Michael Dell is to Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , or Mark Hurd is to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , or Steve Ballmer is to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) .
Even so, the sell-off -- shares of Apple are down 5% as of this writing -- looks somewhat overdone. Jobs isn't leaving the company, and his condition may not be as serious as some think.
The New York Times cites sources that say Jobs isn't suffering from a recurrence of pancreatic cancer but a condition that "was preventing his body from absorbing food." I've said before that his condition sounds like celiac disease and I still believe that. The medical definition of celiac disease:
A chronic hereditary intestinal disorder in which an inability to absorb the gliadin portion of gluten results in the gliadin triggering an immune response that damages the intestinal mucosa. [Emphasis added.]
There's no cure for the disease, but millions manage it by sticking to a gluten-free diet with the help of specialty stores like Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI ) . Whole Foods, in particular, has gluten-free shopping lists at each of its stores.
Of course, this is the best-case scenario, and thus far, investors aren't buying it. Can't say I blame them -- Jobs was as cagey as ever in his latest letter to employees:
Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.
More complex health issues? You call that disclosure?
Sorry, but we're officially past the point where ambiguity is acceptable. Apple isn't Apple without Jobs, and investors shouldn't have to guess about the severity of his condition. We need to know the chances of his temporary medical leave becoming permanent.
We wish you the best for a speedy recovery, Steve. But, please, stop teasing us with hints and innuendo. It's neither fair nor helpful.
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