Investor group wants Apple to spell out CEO succession plan

An influential investor group is calling on Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to disclose a succession plan for Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who is currently on a medical leave of undetermined length. 

The proposal was put forward by the Central Laborers' Pension Fund and endorsed by the Institutional Shareholder Services, an influential proxy advisory group. The maneuvering comes ahead of Apple's annual investor meeting Feb. 23. Since Apple announced Jan. 17 that Jobs would be taking a medical leave--the second time in two years and the third in a decade--some analysts and investors have called on Apple to reveal its succession plans.

"ISS believes that shareholders would benefit by having a report on the company's succession plans disclosed annually," ISS said. "Such a report would enable shareholders to judge the board on its readiness and willingness to meet the demands of succession planning based on the circumstances at that time."

Apple has recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal at the upcoming meeting. An Apple spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Apple made its position clear in its 2011 proxy statement. "The company takes succession planning seriously, and the board has adopted a comprehensive process to ensure continuity and maintain the superior quality of its management team," Apple said in the statement. "This process also allows flexibility to adjust to unanticipated changes in the market."

Jobs took a leave of absence in the first half of 2009 and received a liver transplant. He returned in late June of 2009. Apple COO Tim Cook has assumed day-to-day control of the company's operations, just as he did in 2009. 

Jobs survived pancreatic cancer surgery in 2004, and his health is a key concern for Apple, which he co-founded in 1976. Since returning as CEO in 1997, Jobs has led a stunning revival of the company, with the introduction of the iPod, iPhone and iPad tablet. Jobs is deeply involved in almost every aspect of Apple's business, especially product design.

During the company's fiscal first-quarter earnings conference call, Cook said he is confident about the direction of the company. "What I would tell you is that in my view, Apple is doing its best work ever, that we are all very happy with the product pipeline," he said. "And the team here has an unparalleled breadth and depth of talent and a culture of innovation that Steve has driven in the company, and excellence has become a habit. And so we feel very, very confident about the future of the company."

For more:
- see AllThingsD article
- see this Reuters article
- see this FT article

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