Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ health has been the subject of much speculation and rumor over the past few years.

That speculation has arguably caused hesitation in investors and a lack–or delay–in official response from Apple has hurt the company.

Well, it appears that the company that likes to control its message–and timing of the delivery of said message–is realizing one of the golden rules of online reputation management: bad news will always come out, so you may as well take ownership of it. Case in point, Apple has just announced that Steve Jobs will be taking a medical leave of absence:

Apple CEO Steve Jobs today sent the following email to all Apple employees:

Team,

At my request, the board of directors has granted me a medical leave of absence so I can focus on my health. I will continue as CEO and be involved in major strategic decisions for the company.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for all of Apple’s day to day operations. I have great confidence that Tim and the rest of the executive management team will do a terrific job executing the exciting plans we have in place for 2011.

I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy.

Steve

An email to employees, or an email to the media and journalists? ;-)

Issuing the above as a press release is somewhat clunky. Sure, it tells the whole world what’s going on–before rumors start surfacing–but a press release? It’s times like this when you realize just how ignorant–by choice–Apple is of social media. A blog post would have been a lot less formal in this situation.

Still, the lesson here? Bad news will leak out–even internal, confidential emails–so you may as well control when and how it’s leaked. ;-)

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