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Apple Succession Plan: Nobody's Business?

Publication Date: 
January 15, 2009
Spencer E. Ante and Jena McGregor

Professor Joseph A. Grundfest is quoted in BusinessWeek in an article about Apple's lack of transparency when it comes to plans for CEO Steve Jobs' successor. BusinessWeek writes:

Some governance experts and technology industry executives point to Microsoft (MSFT) as an example of effective succession planning. Like Apple, Microsoft was led by an iconic chief executive, Bill Gates. But Microsoft was methodical about grooming a successor to Gates, anointing Steve Ballmer as the clear heir apparent when he was made president in 1998. After Ballmer became Microsoft's chief executive in 2000, the disruption was minimal.

Another reason the transition went so smoothly is that Microsoft kept Gates around in a high-profile position. Although he stepped down as chief exec in 2000, Gates retained the title of chairman and created a new position of chief software architect for himself, a job he held until mid-2008.


Joe Grundfest, co-director of the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University, says Apple's board may be doing the best job it can amid difficult circumstances. If board members believed Jobs was going to be fine, they may not have seen a big need to be more forthcoming about his health or future, he notes. "One of the hallmarks of a complex medical condition is a diagnosis can change over time," Grundfest says. "If the board has told the truth, then they've handled it best as they could."