November 15, 2011 11:44 pm

Apple picks Levinson as non-executive chairman

Apple named longtime independent director Arthur Levinson as its non-executive chairman and added Disney’s chief executive, Rober Iger, to the board, broadening its leadership after the death of Steve Jobs.

Jobs so dominated the company he co-founded that the board had no chairman for many years. His successor as chief executive, veteran chief operating officer Tim Cook, only joined the board in August.

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Jobs’ death from cancer last month has elevated not just Mr Cook but others in the management team, who must now pull together without their iconic but mercurial longtime leader. Mr Cook has already formally promoted Eddy Cue, who runs Apple’s online store for music and “app” programs as well as its new iCloud storage and streaming service. Mr Cook is also expected to rely more on mobile operating system leader Scott Forstall and hardware designer Jony Ive.

In charting its path, the board has likewise split power once held by Jobs – in fact, if not title – winning praise from investor advocates. “We are in favour of having an independent focus of power in the board room,” said Patrick McGurn of Institutional Shareholder Services, which advises investors on proxy votes.

The board in the past was faulted by some governance experts and investors for being too deferential to Jobs. Among other things, it acceded to his wishes and did not declare that he faced a life-threatening illness.

Mr Levinson was hand-picked by Jobs after he returned to Apple in the late 1990s. Likewise, Mr Iger and Jobs had a close relationship. One of Mr Iger’s first acts atop Disney was to negotiate the big studio’s purchase of Jobs’s other company, computer animation group Pixar, in 2006. That deal made Jobs into Disney’s largest shareholder. He also served on Disney’s board.

Jobs saw Disney as something of a corporate kindred spirit for Apple. Disney was among the first to offer television shows and films via iTunes.

“Over the years, I have come to know and admire the management team, now ably led by Tim Cook, and I am confident they have the leadership and vision to ensure Apple’s continued momentum and success,” Mr Iger said in a statement.

In a statement, Mr Cook noted Disney’s appreciation for new technology, saying Mr Iger’s “strategic vision for Disney is based on three fundamentals: generating the best creative content possible, fostering innovation and utilising the latest technology, and expanding into new markets around the world”. He said the combination “makes him a great fit for Apple”.

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