Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Jerry York: 'I wish I had resigned'

March 25, 2010: 6:34 AM ET

Apple nearly lost a director over Steve Jobs' lack of candor, according to the Journal

Photo: Apple Inc.

The biggest revelation in the Wall Street Journal story Thursday about the lack of independent voices on Apple's (AAPL) board of directors is what the late Jerry York told them -- presumably off the record -- about the way Steve Jobs handled the news about his health problems.

Jobs issued a statement last week about how much he would miss York, and for two days Apple devoted the front page of its website to a York memorial.

But as the Journal tells it, tensions were high in January 2009, just before Jobs went on a six-month medical leave that included a liver transplant. The key paragraphs:

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Mr. York said he almost resigned when told of the seriousness of Mr. Jobs's illness. Mr. York felt Mr. Jobs should have publicly disclosed his health problem three weeks earlier in a news release that announced his decision not to appear at the Macworld trade conference.

Mr. York said the concealment "disgusted" him, adding that the only reason he didn't quit at the time was because he wanted to avoid the uproar that would have occurred once he disclosed his reason. "Frankly, I wish I had resigned then," he said.

The Journal does not say why it held the story so long. But it would seem that the editors felt York's death released them from any confidentiality agreement they may have made at the time.

Yukari Iwatani Kane and Joann S. Lublin, whose bylines top Thursday's Journal piece, have often seemed to have unusually good access to Apple's board of directors. They were the first to report, last June, Jobs had undergone a liver transplant, and that at least some Apple directors were aware of his surgery. Later that month they quoted a person familiar with the weekly medical updates some board members were getting as saying "[Jobs] was one real sick guy'' who had basically been starving himself over a nine-month period because he couldn't digest protein. (See here.)

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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