The annual Apple shareholders meeting had a different tone than usual on Wednesday, lacking the presence of company CEO Steve Jobs. The Apple board hasn’t had a straightforward year, leading the company through a global financial crisis and aiming to stem the ongoing investor uncertainty surrounding Steve Jobs’ health.
Shareholders seemed to embrace the positive on the whole, wishing Jobs a Happy Birthday (he turned 54 on Tuesday) and offering mixed opinion on how the board handled disclosing information surrounding recent events.
A Healthy CEO
As expected, a great deal of time and attention was given to Steve Jobs. As the man who has provided visionary leadership for the company in recent years, to many he is a vital member of the Apple corporate machine. His announcement of escalating health concerns last month caused a stir in the technology press, with rumors about his condition changing every day. Thankfully, this has now settled down as people have come to realize that Apple won’t collapse without his presence.
Shareholders approached the board with a mix of acceptance that personal matters need to be kept private, and questions of whether enough information has been provided. According to Fortune, they were in good enough spirit to sing Happy Birthday and wish him well.
Comments from an Apple shareholder for 20 years, Roland Quintero of Palo Alto, Calif., summarized the general consensus well:
The problem is between corporate and personal responsibility. Anything Apple says would affect the market. The board’s decision reflects a desire to maintain stability and market share. As a shareholder, I, personally, would like to know more, but I understand the no-win situation the company is in.
It’s good to see that shareholders do accept that a level of privacy is needed, both for the sake of Jobs and his family, and also to preserve a stable share price for the company. As the months without Jobs tick by (and software/hardware releases keep coming), Apple seems to be coping very well with Tim Cook temporarily running the company. It would be great to see Jobs back and fighting fit in the future, but this stint without him should go a long way towards showing that Apple has the internal vision and direction to continue innovating without him at the helm.
Re-electing the Board
The shareholders made the decision to re-elect the entire Apple board of 8 people, including former vice president Al Gore and Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Votes were taken on four proposals to change shareholder say on executive compensation, increase required company disclosure and alter staff healthcare provision, but none were passed.
The decision to retain all board members demonstrates a show of support on behalf of the shareholders, and a belief that the company is still being lead by those with the knowledge and expertise to ensure future success. It’s exactly what Apple needed to retain stability and confidence in otherwise turbulent times.
In typical secret fashion, Apple prohibited attendees from carrying mobile or communications devices into the shareholder meeting, to ensure that information wasn’t misinterpreted or leaked during the presentation. Despite this, a few tweets did manage to leak out while the meeting was in progress.
Questions surrounded dividend payments, with hopes from shareholders that a portion of Apple’s extensive cash balance would be used to reward those investing in the company. Apple held over $25 billion in cash at the end of the most recent quarter, the second largest cash level among high-tech companies.
With many companies struggling financially at present, Apple would appear to be in a strong position to continue operations as normal, along with pumping money into research and development. With any luck, they’ll come out of the current recession with an ever-improving hardware and software lineup. On the whole, the re-election of the board and wishes for Steve Jobs’ return to good health bode well for the company.