Apple Computer on Tuesday announced that Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, the world’s biggest internet search group, would join its board of directors.

Mr Schmidt’s appointment, which comes amid an internal investigation into stock options “irregularities” at the computer maker, will add to the overlap between the two companies.

“Like Apple, Google is very focused on innovation and we think Eric’s insights and experience will be very valuable in helping to guide Apple in the years ahead,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and chief executive.

Mr Schmidt, who has overseen a string of impressive results at Google in the two years since the company’s initial public offering, has been active in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years.

He was chairman and chief executive at Novell, the business software group, before Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founders, recruited him to run Google in 2001. Before that he was at Sun Microsystems, where he led the development of Java, a programming tool.

Mr Schmidt will become the third Apple director with connections to Google. Al Gore, the former US vice-president who joined Apple’s board in 2003, is an adviser to the search engine group. Arthur Levinson, the chairman and chief executive of Genentech, the biotechnology company, holds a seat on both companies’ boards.

Shares in Apple rose 0.6 per cent in after-hours trading.

The shares saw heavy trading earlier this month after the company announced that options “irregularities” would likely force it to restate several years of financial results.

Concerns that executives at some companies may have improperly backdated stock options to avoid accounting charges have prompted US authorities to launch investigations into more than 80 companies.

Although Apple is not the subject of any formal investigation, the irregular options grants, including one grant to Mr Jobs that was later cancelled, have led some industry watchers to question whether Apple’s top management may be set for a shake-up.

Apple is also grappling with last week’s recall of 1.8m Sony batteries that are prone to overheating and could present a fire hazard.

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