Jobs tells the press, not shareholders, about his health

When Steve Jobs spoke at last month’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, onlookers commented on the Apple CEO’s noticeably thin and gaunt appearance. And, considering Jobs’ brush with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2003, those observations got Apple fans and shareholders concerned. Was Jobs sick again? As New York Times reporter Joe Nocera explains, Apple would only say that the CEO had been hit by a “common bug” and that his health was a “private matter.”

Left: Jobs at the 2007 WWDC keynote. Right: Jobs last month. Source: Apple.

That lack of talkativeness got the rumor mill grinding even more furiously, and another New York Times writer claimed Jobs had undergone surgery and that he’d suffered from both digestive difficulties and an infection before the keynote. Still, Apple stayed mum, refusing to tell shareholders and investors whether the prolific (and arguably irreplaceable) CEO was in medical trouble again—or worse.

Just as he’d received another e-mail with the same spiel from Apple, Nocera says he received a phone call from Jobs himself. Before offering to speak to Nocera off the record about what was wrong, the CEO stated, “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.”

Although he says he can’t go into details, Nocera explains, “While [Jobs’] health problems amounted to a good deal more than ‘a common bug,’ they weren’t life-threatening and he doesn’t have a recurrence of cancer.” With surprise, the reporter goes on comment that Jobs chose to brief him on the situation before telling the shareholders “who have entrusted him with their money.”

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