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Apple: Steve Jobs remains CEO. His health? None of your business.

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A top Apple executive addressed Wall Street’s concerns about the gaunt appearance of CEO Steve Jobs for the first time, saying today that his health was a ‘private matter.’

When Jobs appeared at a conference in June to show off the iPhone 3G, it caused a mini-sensation. To many, Jobs looked thin -- too thin -- setting off speculation about his health. He had announced in 2004 that he had fought off pancreatic cancer.

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A company spokeswoman explained later that Jobs, 53, had been suffering from ‘a common bug’ and had been treated by antibiotics. End of story, right?

Not exactly. Ahead of Apple’s scheduled earnings report, the New York Post revived those concerns this morning with a story quoting hedge fund managers saying they had sold Apple stock because of continuing concerns about Jobs’ health. Apple has never revealed its succession plan, which aggravated the traders’ worries. And a Fortune magazine story in March said Jobs and Apple’s board hid the diagnosis for months.

Today, on Apple’s earnings call with industry analysts, someone popped the question: Is Steve Jobs still sick?

Jobs rarely sits in on earnings calls. Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, answered: ‘Steve loves Apple. He serves as CEO at the pleasure of the board and he has no plans to leave Apple. Steve’s health is a private matter.’

It’s unclear whether investors were spooked by the answer or merely unsatisfied with Apple’s forecast for the current quarter. Apple reported profit and revenue that set a new record for its fiscal third quarter, but its shares fell 6% before the analyst call began. By the time the call was over, Apple’s shares were trading 11% lower than at the close of regular trading.

-- Michelle Quinn


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