Updated below! Apple CEO Steve Jobs will take a leave of absence for an undermined period to focus on his health, he informed Apple employees in an email Monday.
Jobs told his employees, “I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.”
The news was a surprise and sent Apple shares falling by up to 10 percent in overseas markets. The U.S. stock market is closed Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday.
The lack of time frame for the length of Job’s leave of absence “suggests there are long-term issues with his health, said analyst Alexander Peterc of Exane BNP Paribas in London, reported Bloomberg.
This is Job’s second recent leave of absence. In 2009 he took a 6-month hiatus for a liver transplant. Jobs, 55, is a cancer survivor.
Jobs turned around Apple from a struggling company to the second largest U.S. corporation by market value (behind Exxon Mobile), and the largest valued tech company in the world.
“In the 14 years since taking charge of Apple, he has transformed the business from a computer-industry also-ran into the world’s largest technology company by market value. He introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad — products that became the trendsetters in each of their markets,” said Bloomberg.
Last year, Apple passed Microsoft in market capitalization.
Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 at the age of 21, but was removed by the board in 1985. He then returned to Apple in 1997, after the company had run up $1.86 billion in losses over two years, said Bloomberg.
Apple is due to report its quarterly results Tuesday.
Update: Apple’s business plan is in place for 2 to 5 years out, say analysts…. see Bloomberg interview with James Kelleher, director of research at Argus Research Co.