Some members of Apple’s board of directors have talked to outside executive recruiters and “at least one head of a high-profile technology company” about Apple’s CEO succession since current CEO Steve Jobs went on medical leave of absence in January of this year, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The newspaper cited the familiar “unnamed sources familiar with the matter,” while current Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the report “hogwash.”
Apple has seven directors on its board, including Mr. Jobs himself. According The Journal’s sources, some of the other six directors (likely the independent ones), talked to high-powered executive recruiters to discuss their options.
The report is somewhat contradictory, in that the beginning of the article characterized these meetings as “more of an informal exploration of the company’s options,” rather than an attempt to actually recruit a new CEO. The directors were also said to be acting independently, and “don’t appear to have been acting on behalf of the full board.”
Further down in the article, however, the reporter noted that, “Some of the people who talked with Apple directors said they considered the conversations to be more than the routine discussions they typically have with board members.”
The reporter also pointed out that Mr. Jobs didn’t participate in Tuesday’s conference call with analysts without also noting that Mr. Jobs has rarely done so in the past, even before he began struggling with his health. Mr. Jobs has been at two such conference calls that we can think of in the last several years, and they are otherwise presided over by COO Tim Cook (considered a top contender for Mr. Jobs’s replacement) and CFO Peter Oppenheimer.
Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment for the article, but Mr. Jobs did reply in an e-mail to The Journal with a succinct, “I think it’s hogwash.”
Mr. Jobs has historically kept a tight rein on Apple’s board of directors, having personally chosen all six members of the board who aren’t Steve Jobs. The company and its board has been tight-lipped on the Apple’s succession plan for any and all of its leadership, other than to say it has such a plan, claiming that revealing its plan could cause unnecessary dissension in Apple’s executive ranks.
That said, current regulations stipulate that boards of directors are supposed to be independent, acting in the best interests of company shareholders, rather than (necessarily) company’s management. So even if some of Apple’s board members were talking to executive recruiters or heads of other tech companies about options in replacing Mr. Jobs in the event that he left the company, it would likely be seen as exercising their responsibility to shareholders, rather than a betrayal of some sort.
At least that would be so to most outside observers.
In the meanwhile, Mr. Jobs is one of the singularly most successful CEOs of all time, having led Apple to unprecedented heights in terms of accomplishments, product development, revenue, earnings, and just about any other metric one could choose to apply towards measuring success.