The more Apple refuses to talk about it, the greater the speculation - and concern - among investors. The Apple CEO and Disney director, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, appeared reed-thin and sickly at a recent public appearance. The company pooh-poohed it as a "common bug," but during an earnings conference call on Monday, CFO Peter Oppenheimer would not discuss Jobs's health, calling it "a private matter." That, of course, only increased the chatter. Now, one large Apple investor told the WSJ, "everyone's worried."
Mr. Jobs's well-being is key information for a company whose success is inextricably linked to its leader. But corporate-governance experts say the laws governing when an executive must reveal his health problems are unclear. "This kind of disclosure is a balancing act," said Steve London, a securities lawyer and partner with Boston-based Pepper Hamilton LLP. "Unless there's the very unlikely scenario that Apple insiders are trading on some bad news about Jobs that they are keeping secret, I don't see Apple doing anything wrong here."
The dearth of information has led investors to do their own digging over the years. In 2004, one hedge fund hired private investigators to tail Mr. Jobs to hospital appointments in the hopes figuring out how sick he was, said a portfolio manager at the fund. Eventually, he said, Mr. Jobs "seemed to catch on," and became harder to track. More recently, hedge-fund managers said Tuesday, fund managers have talked of asking doctors to closely analyze pictures of Mr. Jobs to monitor changes in his physical appearance, and have been talking about once again hiring investigators to find out Mr. Jobs's prognosis.
Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley Insider says that the health of 53-year-old Jobs may be a private matter, "but it's also a matter of supreme importance to Apple shareholders. We know of no big company, in fact, in which the CEO's health is a more critical consideration for shareholders than it is at Apple." CNET's Tom Krazit says that people should “put aside the nonsensical notion that the day-to-day performance of a 20,000-person company is based entirely on the health of one man.” Apple stock was down today.