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Apple, with eye on media, names Disney's Iger to board

Reuters
Nov 16, 2011 at 09:39am IST

Los Angeles: Apple Inc moved to shore up its board after the death of Silicon Valley legend Steve Jobs, appointing Walt Disney Co chief executive Bob Iger to its board to propel its media ambitions.

Iger brings sector expertise and Disney's clout as the world's largest media and entertainment conglomerate to bear, as Apple prepares to step up a fight with the likes of Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc over content and its distribution. Many on Wall Street also expect an attempt soon to shake up the fragmented television market, much as Apple did with iTunes and music years ago.

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"Apple is going to get more into content distribution over time on the video side. That's where it makes sense for someone like Bob Iger from Disney to have that relationship with Apple," Morningstar analyst Michael Corty said. Apple is taking the fight to Internet distribution and the so-called "cloud". It recently launched "iTunes Match", a service that for a fee of $24.99 scans the content of your music library and matches it with music available on its iTunes Store.

Apple names Walt Disney's Iger to board

Apple is going to get more into content distribution over time on the video side.

Google is expected to announce this week an online music service similar to iTunes. In coming years, investors are betting that Apple will launch a full-fledged assault on TV, though skeptics say it will prove difficult to arrange distribution agreements with cable and content companies.

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Jobs was himself a director at Disney, whose corporate empire encompasses TV network ABC, sports cable channel ESPN, movie studios and theme parks and resorts. He and Iger forged a strong relationship after Disney bought Pixar - which Jobs took over in 1986 - for about $7.4 billion in 2006.

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Genentech Inc Chairman Arthur Levinson will become chairman, replacing Jobs, who died in October after a years-long struggle with cancer. Levinson had been a co-lead Apple director since 2005, alongside Avon Products Inc's Andrea Jung. Apple had lacked a chairman until Jobs in August took the role, relinquishing his CEO duties at the same time because he could no longer fulfil them due to his worsening health. The company argued that co-lead arrangement enhanced its independence.

But analysts have said Jobs' exercised enormous influence over the board. They said his absence would trigger major changes for the board, elevating them beyond being merely advisors to a visionary leader. The board may have to take more control, be less deferential to new CEO Tim Cook than it was to Jobs and meet more often, they said.

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The naming of an independent chairman was welcomed by corporate governance experts. "The board knows it's going to be under the microscope and Tim Cook knows that as well," said Jim Post, a professor of corporate governance at Boston University School of Management who called for an independent chairman. "The board has to move out of Steve Jobs' shadow and they have to act to like an independent board."

"The steps they have taken today move them in a better direction," he added. Previously, some experts have raised concerns about how Jobs managed to keep his board in the dark about his health, which was a topic of constant speculation in the years before his death.

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In Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography of the Silicon Valley icon, it was revealed the charismatic Jobs had sometimes lied about his condition.

Questions about the board's oversight had also arisen since Apple became one of many Silicon Valley corporations embroiled in the options-backdating scandals in the middle of the last decade. In a fierce battle to attract and retain talent, Apple and others had resorted to backdating options - attaching a retroactive validity date - to make them more valuable. Apple and Jobs were eventually cleared of wrongdoing.

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