There were no fireworks at Apple's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, as shareholders backed management's proposals and blocked activists proposals. While much ado has been made about apple returning more money to shareholders, shareholders in attendance weren't making any demands at the meeting.
Nuts & Bolts
All of Apple's board of directors were re-elected with overwhelming majorities, though some were more overwhelming than others. The numbers below are the proxy votes tallied before the meeting. The final numbers should be similar.
- Bill Campbell: 98.4 percent
- Tim Cook: 99.1 percent
- Millard Drexler: 87.9 percent
- Al Gore: 87.8 percent
- Bob Iger: 99 percent
- Andrea Jung: 84 percent
- Ronald D. Sugar: 98.6 percent
- Art Levinson: 98.1 percent
Five of those directors received 98 percent approval or higher. The three who didn't represent very different stories.
Al Gore: Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is a punching bag for the political right, many of whom hate him. While Apple's shareholders seem to skew left of center compared to some other large companies—at the very least, this is very true of the people who attend the shareholder meetings—there are plenty of conservative shareholders counted amongst their number, too.
Some, like Silicon Valley fixture Shelton Ehrlich, have often voiced their displeasure with Mr. Gore's presence on the board. This year, for instance, the comment period for electing Apple's board featured a shareholder arguing that Mr. Gore shouldn't be on Apple's board—or any "decent" board—because he sold his Current TV network to Al Jazeera.
Much of his relatively low shareholder approval can be attributed to folks with a vehement philosophical disagreement over Mr. Gore's politics and his stance on climate change.
Andrea Jung: Ms. Jung is the former CEO of Avon, though she remains a "special advisor" to Avon's board of directors. She stepped down from that position in late 2011 in the wake of a bribery scandal related to Avon's entry into the Chinese market. She is the only female on Apple's board, indeed, she's the only member who isn't a white male, and she kept her Apple board seat, but she's had her critics since her downfall at Avon.
Millard Drexler: I'm at a loss to explain Mr. Drexler's low vote, at 87.9 percent. He's the CEO and Chairman of J. Crew, and he has been credited with working with the late Steve Jobs and former retail chief Ron Johnson in developing the early versions of the Apple Store retail locations.
Apple's shareholders voted overwhelmingly (99.4 percent) to continue Ernst & Young's role as auditor. This was a routine proposal (#3). Apple voted 61.05 percent to enact a non-binding (i.e. pointless) advisory resolution to approve executive compensation. This was proposal 4.
Shareholders rejected proposal al #5, an activist proposal that would require executives to retain ownership of 33 percent of any stocks they earned in compensation until they retired ("hold to retirement requirement").
Shareholders also rejected proposal #6, an activist proposal that would require Apple to have a board of human rights to monitor the human rights of its workers. As left-of-center as Apple's shareholders may be (see above), they are clearly not interested in this issue. This proposal received only 5.6 percent of the vote.
Less Is More?
One interesting aspect of Wednesday's meeting is that Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer wasn't in attendance. At past events, Mr. Oppenheimer and/or his predecessor Fred Anderson took the stage alongside CEO Tim Cook, and before he passed away, Steve Jobs. Mr. Oppenheimer may have been in attendance in the audience with other Apple execs, but he did not take the stage today.
Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage with aplomb and confidence. In his opening comments, he immediately addressed Apple's stock decline over the last five months, saying, "I want you to know I don't like it, either."
He reiterated his and predecessor Steve Jobs's position that Apple is focused on the long term, and he said that Apple believed in focusing on making the best products. If you do so, he said, revenue and profits will fall into place.
Mr. Cook bragged about Apple's growth, noting that Apple's revenue growth of $48 billion in fiscal 2012 was, "more than the growth of Google, Microsoft, Dell, HP, RIM (now called BlackBerry), and Nokia combined."
He reiterated his comments from January's conference call with analysts that Apple's $55.6 billion in revenue in the December quarter was the largest quarter of any tech company in history.
Shares of $AAPL closed lower on Wednesday, ending the day at $444.57, down $4.40 (-0.98 percent), on heavy volume of 20.9 million shares trading hands.
Stay tuned for additional coverage from the meeting at The Mac Observer.
[Update: This article was updated with more information on Al Gore's election to Apple's board. - Editor]
*In the interest of full disclosure, the author holds a tiny, almost insignificant share in AAPL stock that was not an influence in the creation of this article.