Apple names new chairman

Updated: 2011-11-16 14:23


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SAN FRANCISCO - Apple Inc has named Arthur Levinson as its non-executive chairman, a move that rewards the longtime Apple board member who chose it over Google Inc when the technology giants began competing with each other.

Levinson, 61, fills the vacancy left when co-founder Steve Jobs died last month at age 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jobs had been chairman for less than two months, a position created when he stepped down as chief executive in August.

Robert Iger, president and CEO of The Walt Disney Co, was tapped as a director.

The appointments were announced Tuesday.

Levinson is chairman of pharmaceuticals company Genentech Inc. He showed his loyalty in 2009 when a federal investigation pressured him to choose between keeping his board seat at Apple or at Internet search leader Google Inc. At that point, the companies had become rivals in mobile devices and Web browsers.

Levinson said in a statement that he was honored to be named Apple's chairman.

"Apple is always focused on out-innovating itself ... and that is something I am very proud to be a part of," he said.

Levinson's allegiance may have been especially appreciated by Jobs, who had become convinced that Google stole iPhone's innovative touch-screen operating system to develop its own platform called Android.

Jobs' antipathy toward Google and its former CEO, Eric Schmidt, was well documented during interviews he gave with his biographer, Walter Isaacson. In the book, titled simply "Steve Jobs," Jobs called Android a "stolen product." Schmidt was an Apple board member for three years until he resigned in August 2009 as the rivalry between the two companies grew. Levinson resigned from Google's board two months later.

Levinson joined Genentech as a research scientist in 1980 and led it as chief executive from 1995 to 2009. Levinson has been co-lead director on Apple Inc.'s board since 2005, serving alongside Avon Products Inc. CEO Andrea Jung.

In the years after Levinson became an Apple director in 2000, the board was periodically derided for being too deferential to Jobs.

Some of the criticism centered on the touchy subject about how much information the board should have shared about Jobs' health problems, especially after he took a six-month leave of absence in 2009. Most shareholders didn't find out that Jobs had gotten a liver transplant until reading about it in The Wall Street Journal just before he returned to work.

During Levinson's tenure, the board also approved the manipulation of stock options that increased their value to Jobs and other executives. The options were backdated to a time when Apple's shares were worth less than when they were granted _ a move that increased the potential windfalls for the recipients

If companies backdate options without properly disclosing and accounting for the move, it can cause profits to be overstated. That's what happened at Apple and dozens of other technology companies in a scandal that rocked Silicon Valley in 2006 and 2007.

The Securities and Exchange Commission reached a $2.2 million settlement with Apple's former general counsel in 2008, but never took action against Jobs or the company's board.

Disney's Iger repaired frayed relations between Jobs and Disney after he took the reins of the media company in 2005. He first made ABC shows available on iTunes, and then led Disney's acquisition of computer animated movie studio Pixar for $7.4 billion. The Pixar deal made Jobs Disney's largest shareholder.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, said Levinson has made "enormous contributions" to the company since joining the board, saying "his insight and leadership are incredibly valuable."

Cook said that Iger, 60, was "a great fit for Apple" because his stewardship of Disney is based on principles that Apple shares _ generating creative content, using new technology and expanding into new markets around the world.

Both men will serve on Apple's audit committee.

"I am extremely pleased to join the board of such a wonderful company," Iger said in a statement. "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."

Nakashima reported from Los Angeles.