Steve Dinneen
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STEVE JOBS last night resigned as chief executive of Apple, telling the board he is no longer able to meet his duties.

His shock departure heralds the end of an era for one of the world’s biggest firms and most colourful chief executives.

The decision follows a seven month medical leave of absence, during which his public appearances have been limited. His health has been a persistent source of speculation since he battled pancreatic cancer in 2004 and underwent a liver transplant five years later.

The talismanic figure will stay on as chairman of the Cupertino-based firm. Tim Cook, the former IBM director who is currently standing-in as chief executive, has been handed the top job on a permanent basis.

Apple stock was briefly suspended following the post-bell announcement, after which it slid as much as seven per cent – knocking $25bn (£15.3bn) from its value.

In an emotional letter, Jobs told the Apple board: “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as chief executive, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come. I hereby resign as chief executive of Apple.”

He went on to say that he believes Apple’s “brightest and most innovative” days are ahead of it, adding he looks forward to “contributing to its success in a new role”.

His departure is the second time he has left the top job, the first coming in 1984, when he was forced out after a boardroom struggle. In his absence the company almost went bankrupt, its value consisting almost entirely of cash and property. His return in 1997 was wildly transformative, leading to an unprecedented string of iconic products including the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

The unparalleled success guided Apple to the summit of the S&P 500 – a feat that only a year ago seemed all-but impossible.

Apple briefly passed Exxon Mobil to join an exclusive club of just 10 firms to top the index, alongside the likes of Ford, General Electric and Microsoft.