Apple CEO Steve Jobs should be returning to his full-time position in coming weeks after recently undergoing a liver transplant. However, controversy remains over how desktop, notebook, iPod and iPhone maker Apple handled his illness and whether it will lead to additional investigations from the FTC and other bodies.
CEO Steve Jobs may have saved his life with
a liver transplant, but questions about his medical leave could continue to dog
his company, even after a highly successful June that saw the rollout of the
iPhone 3G S.
As first reported in The Wall Street Journal on June 20, Jobs underwent the
transplant in Tennessee "about
two months ago." The name of the hospital where the operation was
performed was a subject of unconfirmed speculation until June 23, when the Methodist
University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis,
Tenn., issued a statement saying that Jobs
had in fact had his liver transplanted there.
According to the hospital, Jobs was the patient "with the highest MELD
score (Model for End-Stage Liver Disease) of his blood type and, therefore, the
sickest patient on the waiting list at the time a donor organ became
The MELD score attempts to predict a patient's chances of surviving chronic
liver disease; both the United Network for Organ Sharing and Eurotransplant use
it to determine which patients should receive livers, with a maximum score of
40 suggesting death within three months if a transplant is not performed.
Despite the reported severity of his preoperative condition, the hospital
said, "Jobs is now recovering well and has an excellent prognosis."
Jobs also approved the hospital's release of news about the transplant. The
Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute performed 120 such
operations in 2008.
The statement came a day after a handful of print and online media outlets,
including The New York Times, publicly questioned how Jobs managed to receive
his liver so rapidly despite the oft-publicized lack of available organs
nationwide. The hospital's news release took care to emphasize the severity of
the Apple CEO's condition and the rigorous
procedure involved in admitting him as a patient, but did not disclose details
about the case.
Perhaps intent on showing some vigor now that his return to full-time work
seems imminent, Jobs issued a statement trumpeting the successful launch of his
company's new smartphone, the iPhone
3G S, which broke the 1 million mark in sales on its third day of release.
"Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning," Jobs wrote.
"With over 50,000 applications available from Apple's revolutionary App
Store, iPhone momentum is stronger than ever."
Healthy and ready to return to work Jobs may be, but details surrounding his
months-long medical leave-originally
blamed on a "hormone imbalance"-could continue to generate
"Typically, in the case of serious medical issues, an executive will go
on leave and it's all done in a pretty up-front manner. The lack of
transparency on Apple's part is sort of unprecedented," Charles King, an
analyst with Pund-IT, said in an interview. "It could spark something from
the [Securities and Exchange Commission] if Apple seemed like they were trying to protect
Jobs was previously under investigation as part of a stock option backdating
controversy, which saw the Securities and Exchange Commission file charges
against the company's former chief financial officer and its former general
counsel, accusing the latter of fraudulently
backdating stock options for Apple's executive team.
Apple was under pressure during Jobs' absence to show that the company could
operate and maintain its stock price even in the absence of the CEO,
who is considered its figurehead and driving force. Certain pundits have argued
that it is precisely because of Jobs' one-of-a-kind position that Apple should
have been more forthright about his condition; but aside from vague statements,
Apple has remained impressively close-lipped about Jobs' health.
"Corporate transparency is becoming cellophane-like," King said.
"With a growing number of social-media outlets, people want to be seen as
really open. Apple, for a company that wants to be seen as cutting-edge, has an
opacity that is remarkably old-school."
Whether the issues will fade once Jobs returns to full-time work, or whether
they will snowball into a larger concern, remains an open question.
Editor's Note: This story was updated with a correction to a quote from the analyst.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.