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Apple Wants Their Cloak Of Secrecy To Extend To Succession Of Steve Jobs

Don’t go getting all rowled up just yet.  It’s perfectly normal for major publicly traded companies to require a succession plan for key executives including CEO’s.  These companies, Apple and Google included, typically have succession plans that are kept heavily guarded or remain secret.  With the current triumvrate at Google, which actually continues after the change on April 4th, it wouldn’t be a bad assumption to assume that Brin or even Schmidt could step in if something were to happen to Larry Page.

Apple Inc’s shareholders have made a proposal requiring the company to disclose a succession plan for Chief Executive Officer, Steve Jobs.  The shareholder proposal has gained the support of both Institutional Shareholder Services and the Laborer’s International Union of North America.

Rockville based ISS said “A vote for the shareholder proposal to adopt a succession planning policy is warranted in light of the company’s limited disclosure regarding this issue and the market’s expression of concern over CEO succession at Apple,”

Far more tech companies stay mum on executive succession because their executives are often founders or younger companies.  Apple contends that disclosing a succession plan may hurt them down the line.  Not only would competitors know who was being tapped to run Apple if Jobs doesn’t return from his current medical leave, internally other key employees would know as well. Should they decide they don’t like the new plan they may leave Apple.

Apple asked shareholders to vote against this proposal in a January 7, 2011 proxy, 10 days before Jobs announced his indefinite medical leave. Apple’s current governance requires that the board and CEO evaluate succession plans annually for all senior executives which includes identifying candidates for those positions.  Under the current governance these evaluations remain confidential.  Should this shareholder proposal be granted than those plans would become public.

Jobs is currently on his 3rd medical leave. Unlike the previous two leaves he hasn’t clearly identified a return date to day to day operations at Apple.  Although he says he will still be a part of key decision making processes Jobs has delegated COO Tim Cook to run the day to day operations, which is a role Cook assumed in the previous two leaves as well.

In comparison Microsoft’s Bill Gates tapped Steve Ballmer for the CEO postion well in advance of his stepping down in 2000.

It’s often feared (moreso than even an iPhone coming to Verizon) that without the marketing savvy, charisma, and character of Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple would suffer a dramatic change in culture, production and sales.  Apple has been on an unprecedented rebound since co-founder Steve Jobs returned to the helm as interim CEO in 1998 and then full CEO at the 2000 MacWorld.  Even John Sculley, who was CEO during Jobs exile from Apple agreed that Steve Jobs is Apple’s core.

Source: Bloomberg

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