Apple After Steve Jobs' Death: Future of Board in Focus

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Experts say they will keep an eye on whether the tech giant chooses an independent chairman or an insider, such as CEO Tim Cook, and expands the number of directors. 

NEW YORK - After the death of Apple co-founder and chairman Steve Jobs, the secretive company's board, which has at times been criticized as too cozy with Jobs, will come into the spotlight, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported.

Experts say the board could highlight its independence by naming an outside chairman or expanding the number of board members beyond the current seven.

"Jobs helped define the board," Stephen Davis, executive director of the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at Yale School of Management, told the Journal, which added that the board "went along with Mr. Jobs' culture of secrecy and never developed a significant counterweight" to him. Said Davis: "Without him, it will have to define itself."

Critics, for example, opposed the Apple board's lack of disclosure about Jobs' health issues during two medical leaves in recent years. At Apple's annual shareholder meeting in February, a shareholder resolution calling for the company to draw up and disclose a succession plan got about 30 percent of the vote, the Journal mentioned.

During the Jobs era, Apple got "low marks in my book for corporate governance," because the CEO dominated the board, James Post, a professor at Boston University's School of Management, told the Journal. "They have to evolve from dominance to partnership" with Tim Cook, the new CEO.

A company spokesman declined to discuss possible board changes, the Journal said.

Cook, a possible candidate for the chairman post, likely has got "too much on his plate now" to be chairman as well, Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek told Reuters.

An outside candidate is a popular idea with governance experts. "They need somebody who's going to stir the pot," said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, professor at the Yale School of Management.


Twitter: @georgszalai

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