Should Apple Disclose Its Steve Jobs Succession Plans?

The company's shareholders would like to know

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Apple shareholders are meeting on Wednesday in Cupertino, CA to discuss the company's future. And they--like the rest of us--have one burning question: who will eventually succeed Steve Jobs? Unlike the rest of us, however, the shareholders may be able to wrangle an answer out of the notoriously secretive technology company. "Under a resolution slated for a vote at Apple’s shareholder meeting, the board would be asked to disclose plans for replacing Jobs and explain how it’s nurturing the executive team under him," reports Bloomberg. Naturally, Apple executives are opposing the measure, saying that "revealing secret plans would aid competitors and make it harder to retain executives."

Here's a snapshot of the arguments in favor, and against, succession disclosure:

In Favor:

  • The Request Doesn't Seem That Unreasonable "It is as if [Apple doesn't] want to publicly acknowledge that there will be a day when their iconic leader will not be at the helm in some shape or form," observes BBC blogger Maggie Shiels. Leading the charge to disclose the plans is the Central Laborers' Pension fund, which "holds nearly 11,500 Apple shares worth around $4m." Sheils writes: "Given that Mr Jobs is seen as so central to the success of Apple, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that the Fund wants to protect the investment it has made on behalf of its members, who work mainly in the construction industry. Especially given that this time around, Mr Jobs and Apple has said little about his actual state of health and how long he will be on leave for."
  • Apple Needs To Disclose Its Plans (Says Investor-Advisory Service)  Via Wall Street Journal, the Institutional Shareholder Services advisory firm--which has endorsed the resolution asking Apple to disclose succession plans--details the reasons for supporting the resolution.
Institutional Shareholder Services said all companies should have succession plans in place, and Apple shareholders would benefit by having a report on the company’s succession plans disclosed annually. “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,” ISS said.


  • It Might Not Matter If They Disclose a Successor: Jobs Can't Be Replaced  An unnamed "high ranking" Apple employee speaks to the Los Angeles Times, and neatly sums up what losing Jobs will mean: "Without him, the innovation will slow, regardless of all the great people there...When Apple does something, the whole world innovates. Who's going to do that now? That's not going to continue. I don't care what anyone says. How could it? How can you replace Steve? The reality is, you can't."
  • It's Premature   In an interview with Bloomberg, Harvard Business School Professor Bill George argued against the Apple disclosing succession plans, saying (1:58 in the video below): "I think it would be totally premature to say exactly what's going to happen...It's not appropriate for the board to go further than to say they have a succession plan in the short term and in the long term for the company, and those circumstances always need to be evaluated at the time."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.