Apple CEO Succession Proposal Gets Backing From ISS

Steve Jobs, chief executive officer of Apple Inc.
Steve Jobs announced a leave of absence of Jan. 17, the third time the Apple co-founder has taken time away from the company since 2004 to deal with health problems. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

An Apple Inc. shareholder proposal requiring the company to disclose a succession plan for Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs gained the support of Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy-advising service.

ISS, which helps institutional investors decide how to vote on shareholder propositions, wants Apple’s board to disclose a CEO succession plan annually, according to a report released by the firm. The measure is backed by the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

Jobs announced a leave of absence on Jan. 17, the third time the Apple co-founder has taken time away from the company since 2004 to deal with health problems. While Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has assumed control of day-to-day operations, Apple’s board hasn’t said who will take over for Jobs if he can’t return. The proposal will be considered at Apple’s annual shareholder meeting on Feb. 23.

“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,” Rockville, Maryland-based ISS said in a report dated Jan. 28. The laborers’ union announced the group’s support in a statement today.

Apple’s Opposition

Apple, the most valuable technology company, asked shareholders to vote against the proposal in its proxy statement released Jan. 7. The company said its governance guidelines require the board and CEO to annually review succession planning for senior management. That process includes identifying candidates for succession.

Those deliberations are kept confidential. The company said the information could provide competitors with an unfair advantage and give them an opportunity to poach executives. The proposal also could harm its ability to retain executives because it would identify who’s being considered for positions and how they are being evaluated, Apple said.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for the Cupertino, California-based company, declined to comment beyond the filing.

Apple, maker of the iPhone and iPad devices and Macintosh personal computers, fell 88 cents to $343.44 in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares climbed 53 percent last year.

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