Apple Chairman Talks About Apple After Steve Jobs

Arthur Levinson Arthur Levinson

Art Levinson, chairman and former CEO of Genentech, and long-time board member and current chairman of Apple Inc., spoke on Tuesday about life at Apple in the 16 months since cofounder Steve Jobs died. This marks the first time that Mr. Levinson—who counted Steve Jobs as a friend, as well as a colleague—has spoken publicly about his work at Apple since he ascended to the chairmanship.

Mr. Levinson said that he "finally" started Walter Isaacson's biography, Steve Jobs (Amazon, iBooks), but that he hasn't been able to finish it yet.

"He was a one of a kind guy [...] The Steve Jobs that was in the public eye was not, for the most part, the Steve Jobs that I knew."

The comments came during an on-stage interview at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, according to Fortune. Vicki Slavina, a Stanford student, conducted the interview that included questions from audience members.

When asked what it was like to run Apple's board without Steve Jobs's presence, Mr. Levinson described it as "Weird." He said, "I'm still not to the point where I walk into that boardroom and don't miss Steve."

Arthur Levinson was named the non-executive chairman of Apple on November 15th, 2011, in the wake of Steve Jobs's passing on October 5th. He technically replaced Steve Jobs, who assumed the role of chairman when he stepped down as CEO in August of that year. Disney CEO Bob Iger joined Apple's board at the same time.

Mr. Levinson is a highly respected Silicon Valley executive, and he was among the first recruits to the board of directors that Steve Jobs built after his return to Apple in 1997. Mr. Levinson joined the board in 2000, and he became close to Mr. Jobs during his time at Apple.

As Apple's chairman, he said that the board is not there to weigh in on product specs or other minutiae on product development, but rather to offer long-term guidance on company strategy and direction. Apple shows the board products 6-18 months in advance of their release, and if a board member has a specific expertise that applies, his or insight is taken into account.

"The board is not there to define product specs," Mr. Levinson said. "It's there as a sounding board. It's there as a resource. And ultimately, the board is there to hire and fire the CEO."

He added that good boards don't get in the way of the CEO or executive team, but noted that many companies don't have good boards of directors in the first place.

According to Fortune's Kurt Wagner, Mr. Levinson was upbeat about Apple's future, particularly its long-term "pursuits."

"There [are] long-term signs of how a company is doing and whether or not Apple sells 47 or 48 million iPhones -- let somebody else worry about that," he said.