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Apple’s Steve Jobs Taking Leave Of Absence To Deal With His Health

imageSteve Jobs is taking a leave of absence from Apple for health reasons. Tim Cook, the company’s COO, will take over, Apple announced. A message Jobs sent to Apple’s staff, telling them he was taking off until June, was distributed to the media after the market closed. The stock was halted after hours. In typically mysterious fashion, Jobs first attributed the move to his illness being a distraction, but then admitted he has learned since his pre-Macworld statement that “my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.” After-hours trading of Apple stock was halted around 4:30 PM EDT and resumed about a half hour later. Shares went as low as $76.11, but quickly recovered to $80.

The full text of the media advisory sent by Jobs is after the jump. In the message, Jobs says that he is stepping back from the company’s day-to-day operations but will remain involved in strategic decisions — which makes it a little tougher to envision a post-Jobs Apple (NSDQ: AAPL).

Last week’s pre-Macworld statement came after months of speculation about whether his pancreatic cancer had returned, based on how thin Jobs looked in his public appearances, stretching as far back as early last year. Rumors resurfaced again last month after Jobs said he would not give his traditional Macworld keynote, all of which has battered the company’s stock.

Tricia adds: Going forward, Apple obviously will have some tricky times to navigate with shareholders and consumers demanding innovative new products, in areas ranging from its legacy computer business to emerging categories like music players and mobile phones. In particular, the company will have to find its muse without Jobs, who from the outside looks to be the creative and inspirational lead for new ideas and its fierce competitiveness. But while he has received most of the credit for the company’s turnaround over the past few years, he’s also surrounded himself with the right people. Jobs’ health conditions are truly bad timing for the company since Apple has a great opportunity in this downturn to use its large cash position to buy companies and products, or make big investments at a low-cost. These projects may be put on hold or delayed because of the distraction of Jobs’ health.