Today, Apple held its annual shareholder meeting where investors reelected all seven members of its board of directors, Steve Jobs included. Hopes that the company might be forced into divulging its CEO succession planning have been dashed as investors, following Apple's recommendation, voted down on the succession planning proposal.
The ruling came in spite of the proposer's consent that the company be allowed not to name candidates for the CEO job. The controversial proposal was introduced by the representative of the Central Laborers' Pension Fund, one of Apple's large institutional investors, and endorsed by the investor-advisory service Institutional Shareholder Services. It was also backed by the Laborers’ International Union of North America which has half a million members and manages $34 billion in assets.
According to Nasdaq, where Apple trades under the AAPL ticker, a whooping 70 percent of Apple's shares are owned by large institutional investors. The meeting came the same day Apple sent out press invites to an iPad-related event scheduled to take place next Wednesday at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. While Steve Jobs attended shareholder meetings in the past, he was absent today so Timothy Cook took the stage instead.
Jobs is on an indefinite medical leave, the third in seven years, to focus on his ongoing health issues. Operations chief Timothy Cook, pictured on the left with Jobs, is managing the company on a day-to-day basis while Jobs continues as CEO and remains involved in strategic decisions for the company, Apple said.
Even though most companies are privy to their succession planning, Apple is being held to higher standards, partly due to its mercurial CEO. Jobs, who turns 56 tomorrow, is material to Apple's performance. Much more than just a discardable public face of Apple, his authority comes from his founder credentials (Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976 with Steve Wozniak) and because he saved Apple from near bankruptcy in the nineties and ventured it into mobile phones, entertainment and music.
Nevertheless, the pressure has been on Apple for several years - coming mostly from large institutional investors such as hedge and pensions funds - to reveal who would lead the company if Steve Jobs were to step down for whatever reasons.
And each time such a proposal was voiced at shareholder meetings, holders had shot it down. Apple executives have been arguing that revealing names would put the company in a disadvantageous position because rivals could poach high-ranked candidates for the CEO job.