article

08.24.11

A Genius Era Ends

Apple’s legendary cofounder Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO in a long-expected move that nevertheless rocked the company and saw its shares dip. Dan Lyons reports.

It is the end of an era, a moment that Apple fans and Wall Street investors have long dreaded. Apple CEO and cofounder Steve Jobs, the business visionary who led his company through one of the most remarkable turnarounds in corporate history, resigned on Wednesday, saying in a public letter of resignation that his health woes have worsened to the point that he can no longer do his job.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come,” Jobs wrote.

Jobs, who has suffered cancer and had a liver transplant, has been on medical leave since January. A former close associate of Jobs’s declined to comment on the news, saying only: “I feel too sad.”

The impact of Jobs's resignation may not be felt right away. Apple has a strong pipeline of products in development and, with the iPhone and iPad, has seized a dominant position in what Jobs has called "the post-PC era."

Now Apple must come to grips with the post-Jobs era, and long term, over the next few years, it's hard to imagine that company won't lose some of its magic without him at the helm.

And while Apple has a deep bench of executive talent, there’s a risk that some will drift away now that Jobs is not around.

On Twitter, Apple employees paid tribute to Jobs with comments like: “I knew this day would come. I didn’t expect to cry.” Another wrote: “Productivity levels at work took nosedive as news about Steve hit the wires.”

One Apple insider, however, said people were carrying on as usual, as Apple’s culture is one of emotional restraint.

Apple announced the resignation at 6:35 p.m. East Coast time on Wednesday, and published the resignation from Jobs in which he “strongly recommended” that Tim Cook, the company’s chief operating officer, who has been running the company in Jobs’s absence, be named his successor.

Cook, 50, is an able executive but no replacement for Jobs, whose talent for design and marketing, as well as his skills as a charismatic leader, have made him legendary in Silicon Valley and beyond.

Jobs cofounded Apple in 1976 with his childhood friend, Steve Wozniak. In 1985, Apple fired Jobs, only to bring him back in 1996, at a time when the company was in such bad shape that it was in danger of going out of business.

It's hard to imagine the company won't lose some of its magic without Jobs at the helm.

Jobs eliminated products, brought in a new management team, and launched an amazing comeback that began with the iPod, then iTunes, followed by the iPhone and iPad, along with a revitalized line of iMac and MacBook personal computers.

Revenues soared—this year they will top $100 billion, up from $7 billion in 1996, when Jobs resumed his post as CEO.

Apple’s stock followed suit, climbing from single digits in the late 1990s to more than $400 per share in the past few weeks. Recently Apple briefly became the most valuable company in the world. This afternoon, shares dipped 5 percent in after-hours trading and probably will drop more tomorrow.