Board taps Tim Cook as successor

Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple, announcing in a letter to the company’s board of directors on Wednesday that he was unable to keep up with the post’s demands.

While he did not cite a specific reason for the resignation, the exec’s health problems, including bouts with pancreatic cancer, have long been a subject of discussion with regard to the company’s future.

At Jobs’ urging, the board quickly enacted a succession plan that puts chief operating officer Tim Cook in the CEO role.

“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,” Jobs wrote. “Unfortunately, that day has come. I hereby resign as CEO of Apple.”

Jobs, 55, asked that he be allowed to continue serving as chairman of the board and Apple employee “if the board sees fit.”

Although Disney did not comment, Jobs will likely remain a member of the Mouse House’s board of directors; he hadn’t resigned from that post as of Wednesday, the studio confirmed. Jobs is the Walt Disney Co.’s largest individual shareholder, with a 7% stake that he acquired after Disney bought Pixar in 2006 for $7.4 billion.

Jobs and the innovations he initiated at Apple, Pixar and other ventures have had a major impact on Hollywood.

Products developed by his companies, like Pixar’s RenderMan, have powered the creation of groundbreaking visual effects and animated features. Apple’s iTunes reinvented the way consumers bought music, TV shows and movies online. Hardware like the iPod, iPhone and iPad popularized mobile entertainment. Though Cook has called Apple TV “a hobby,” that area of Apple’s business has shown some growth over the past year. And Pixar’s back-to-back string of hits essentially saved Disney’s animation division when its own toons were struggling at the box office.

Known as a workaholic, Jobs will now likely spend more time pursuing plans to get a new high-tech headquarters for Apple built in Cupertino, Calif., that resembles a spaceship. Jobs presented the latest design plans to the Cupertino City Council in June. The 2.8 million- square-foot building would be larger than the Pentagon.

An idea first floated by Jobs to the city in 2006, the new four-story ring-shaped campus would hold 12,000 employees and house a green-energy power plant. Staffers are currently spread out in rented office space around Cupertino; only 2,800 staffers work inside Apple’s current headquarters.

Apple shareholders reacted quickly to the news of Jobs’ resignation, selling off shares shortly after the announcement hit Wednesday afternoon. Apple’s stock ended the day up by $2.58 to close at $376.18, then plummeted $24 in after-hours trading before starting a rebound.

“Steve’s extraordinary vision and leadership saved Apple and guided it to its position as the world’s most innovative and valuable technology company,” said Art Levinson, chairman of Genentech, on behalf of Apple’s board. “Steve has made countless contributions to Apple’s success, and he has attracted and inspired Apple’s immensely creative employees and world-class executive team. In his new role as chairman of the board, Steve will continue to serve Apple with his unique insights, creativity and inspiration.

“The board has complete confidence that Tim is the right person to be our next CEO,” added Levinson. “Tim’s 13 years of service to Apple have been marked by outstanding performance, and he has demonstrated remarkable talent and sound judgment in everything he does.”

In addition to co-founding Apple in the 1970s with Steve Wozniak, Jobs formed Pixar Animation Studios in 1986 and served as the company’s CEO when he acquired the computer graphics division from Lucasfilm.

Jobs’ pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant have factored into the exec’s stewardship of Apple in recent years, with the effects often visible when he took the stage to promote Apple’s latest gadget, from new versions of the iPod and iPhone to the launches of the iPad and its successor, the iPad 2.

Cook had already been serving as interim CEO since January, when Jobs took a third medical leave from Apple, although Jobs still made most of the company’s major decisions.

Cook, who joined Apple in 1998, moved up the ranks to become the company’s COO in 2007. He did a previous stint as interim CEO in 2004, when Jobs left to recover from pancreatic cancer surgery, and again in 2009 for a number of months while Jobs dealt with the liver transplant.

As COO, Cook is responsible for all of the company’s worldwide sales and operations and headed Apple’s Macintosh division.

Jobs ended his resignation letter by saying, “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role. I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.”

Jobs’ decision to step down comes as Simon & Schuster preps the release of a biography of the Apple co-founder. “Steve Jobs: A Biography,” by Walter Isaacson, was scheduled to bow in March 2012 but the release was recently moved up to Nov. 21.

Jobs participated in the book but didn’t request to read it before it was published, relinquishing any control over its contents.

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