Apple defeats investor plans to reveal CEO succession plan

25 Feb 2011

Apple shareholders at the company’s AGM voted overwhelmingly against a proposal by a group of investors to get the technology giant to disclose how it intends to handle the eventual succession to CEO once Steve Jobs steps down.

It is understood that 400m votes were cast against revealing how Apple intends to execute its succession plan.

Earlier this month, the Institutional Shareholders Service (ISS) group of pension fund investors backed a shareholder proposal that required Apple to disclose Jobs’ succession plan.

Jobs (56), who is on medical leave, remains CEO of the company. In recent years, he has fought pancreatic cancer and still managed to bring out some of the most iconic products in the company’s history, including the iPhone, the iPad and the MacBook Air.

Jobs’ second in command Tim Cook is running the show and yesterday the company announced its latest MacBook Pro products running Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, as well as a developer preview of Mac OS X Lion.

Apple investor concerns

The problem some investors have is that Jobs is so synonymous with Apple’s brands and products that his eventual departure from the role could have a disruptive effect on the company’s performance.

ISS said it believes shareholders would benefit by having a report on the succession plan disclosed annually.

The request came as Apple gets ready to launch the next generation of iPad devices next week. The iPad 2 will be lighter and slimmer than its predecessor and will feature front and rear cameras. The device will come with FaceTime support and will sport an MDM6600 ‘Gobi’ dual-mode GSM/CDMA chip. It is also expected that the device will come with enhanced HD display capabilities; potentially the Retina technology that emerged with the iPhone 4 last year.

Since taking medical leave, Jobs is understood to have been seen around and about Apple’s California headquarters and last week attended a dinner with US President Barack Obama and members of Silicon Valley’s elite, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Oracle’s Larry Ellison.

Investors felt that for a public company whose brand is so wrapped up in its CEO, disclosure and clarity is necessary. Nevertheless, an overwhelming 400 million votes defeated the motion.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years