February 24, 2011, 9:24 AM — Apple's board of directors won't be required to publicly disclose its plans for CEO succession, after shareholders voted down a proposal at Wednesday's annual company meeting. The proposal had been the focus of much of the attention prior to the shareholders meeting, which seemed to be as much about the health of absent CEO Steve Jobs as it was the health of Apple.
Still, during a question-and-answer session with investors, Apple executives tackled other issues surrounding the company, including dropping some hints about possible updates to Apple's iOS devices for the just-announced press event slated for next week.
Steve Jobs may not have been in attendance Wednesday, but the CEO remained the central item of discussion at the morning's meeting. In light of his leave of absence due to medical reasons, his health attracted not only a fair number of questions, but also the interest of several television crews stationed outside the company's headquarters.
With a timetable for Jobs' return to the CEO position uncertain, the shareholders voted down a proposed succession plan. The proposal would have authorized Apple's board to develop internal candidates, develop criteria for the CEO position, and begin non-emergency CEO succession planning at least three years before an expected transition. The plan also called for an annual report to be produced by the Board on a succession plan to be presented to the shareholders.
Jennifer O'Dell, an assistant director for corporate affairs for Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA), argued for a public succession plan, citing the shareholders' need to know how "Apple would handle a CEO vacancy." The proposal, she added, would not have disclosed which candidates the company was looking at in a proposed succession plan, but would ensure the "company to be on sure footing" should the CEO position be vacated. Hewlett-Packard and Intel already have succession plans, she argued, and such a plan would be an opportunity for Apple to "stand in favor of corporate responsibility."
However, shareholders voted down the measure, according to preliminary voting totals. Apple's board of directors had opposed the succession plan proposal, arguing that it already has a formal process in place and that revealing its plans publicly would play into competitors' hands.