Disney CEO Joins Apple’s Board, Levinson Named Non-Executive Chairman

Apple announced Tuesday two significant changes to its board of directors. The first is that Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, has joined the board, and the second is that long-time board member Arthur Levinson has been named the non-executive Chairman. The changes come in the wake of the passing of Apple cofounder and then-Chairman Steve Jobs.

Bob Iger and Steve Jobs after Apple’s “Showtime” Media Event in 2006
Photo credit: Bryan Chaffin
(Click the image for a larger version)

As the title suggests, a non-executive chairman is simply the name given to a company’s chairman when he or she does not also serve as an executive in the company. Mr. Levinson does not work for Apple as an executive.

Arthur Levinson is, however, also the Chairman of Genentech, a biotech company, and he is the longest serving member on Apple’s board of directors. According to Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography he had the confidence of Steve Jobs, and the respect of both the other Apple board members and Silicon Valley itself.

“Art [Levinson] has made enormous contributions to Apple since he joined the board in 2000,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “He has been our longest serving co-lead director, and his insight and leadership are incredibly valuable to Apple, our employees and our shareholders.”

Bob Iger is the chief executive who took over Disney from Michael Eisner in 2005 when Mr. Eisner was ousted from the entertainment company. Steve Jobs played at least a small part in that ouster, as he had threatened to pull Pixar’s films from Disney because of Mr. Eisner. When Mr. Iger was named CEO, terms between Pixar and Disney were reached, and more importantly to Apple watchers, Mr. Iger proved to be the TV and movie executive most willing to work with Apple and its iTunes store.

Steve Jobs became a 5% owner of Disney after he negotiated a deal to sell Pixar to Disney in 2006, and he served on Disney’s board of directors. Increased scrutiny over corporate governance meant that Mr. Iger would not be able to serve on Apple’s board when Mr. Jobs was sitting on his own company’s board, but the passing of Steve Jobs changed that.

With Mr. Iger on Apple’s board, the chances are good that Disney will continue to be a willing partner with Apple’s efforts to sell digital content, and maybe even Apple’s future efforts to disrupt the TV industry. That makes his appointment to Apple’s board the bigger of the two changes the company announced Tuesday.

“Apple has achieved unprecedented success by consistently creating high quality, truly innovative products, and I am extremely pleased to join the board of such a wonderful company,” Bob Iger, Mr. Iger said. “Over the years, I have come to know and admire the management team, now ably led by Tim Cook, and I am confident they have the leadership and vision to ensure Apple’s continued momentum and success.”