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Shareholder Group Pushes Apple CEO Plan

An Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) shareholder's advisory group is pushing for the computer and consumer electronics giant's board to publish a CEO succession plan annually. Concern has been raised by shareholders over who would replace Jobs who is currently on medical leave and has survived both pancreatic cancer and a liver transplant.

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), one of the nation's largest proxy voting services, endorsed the investors' proposal in its report on the investors' request, which was submitted by the Central Laborers Pension Fund of the Laborers' International Union of North America.

"ISS believes that shareholders would benefit by having a report on the company's succession plans disclosed annually. Such a report would enable shareholders to judge the board on its readiness and willingness to meet the demands of succession planning based on the circumstances at that time," the ISS report, which was unveiled Thursday, said.

The push to come up with a public plan, however, is apparently not one that Apple executives relish.

In its proxy statement, which was released last week, Apple acknowledges the proposal but urges shareholders to vote against it.

According to the report, the board told ISS that it is in favor of succession planning but said it is already doing much of that. Plus, making it public is problematic.

"The board goes on to argue that adopting the proposal would give Apple's competitors an unfair advantage by publicizing confidential objectives and plans, and could undermine the company's efforts to recruit and retain executives by inviting competitors to recruit high-value executives away from Apple, and by inducing executives not identified as potential successors to leave the company," the report said.

Last month, Jobs announced he was taking another health-related leave of absence, his third since 2004. In his absence, COO Tim Cook will take over the reins of running day to day operations at the company, though Jobs said he stay involved with strategic decisions at the company he co-founded.

Apple's annual shareholders meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23 at the company's Cupertino, Calif. headquarters. Apple did not return a request for comment by press time.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.