Disney CEO Bob Iger joining the Apple board of directors is a natural move, considering the longtime partnership between the innovative tech company and the “imagineers” at Disney. Disney acquired Pixar and turned Steve Jobs into the company’s largest shareholder.
Bob Iger has been a longtime friend to Apple ever since the 2006 buyout of Pixar. The deal was worth about $7.4 billion and made Jobs one of the largest Disney shareholders, but he and CEO Steve Jobs were kindred spirits who were more than just business partners.
In addition to the appointment of Disney CEO Iger, Apple’s board app appointed former Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson as its non-executive chairman. Levinson has served on Apple’s board since 2000 — before even the iPod was launched. Though a research scientist by training and an executive in the biotech arena, Levinson’s drive for innovation has made him an integral part of Apple over the years.
This history of longstanding relationships is not an outlier for the new appointment of Iger and the elevation of Levinson. Take a look at the rest of the Apple board:
William V. Campbell: Current board chairman at Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU), which makes TurboTax and Quicken, William V. Campbell previously served as executive vice president at Apple. He has had ties to Apple dating back to 1983.
Tim Cook: The chief executive officer following Steve Jobs’ resignation, Tim Cook was hand-picked by the late Apple founder and groomed as his successor in the corner office. He joined Apple in 1998 and played a big role in getting Apple out of the manufacturing game and simply into the business of designing and marketing hit gadgets.
Millard S. Drexler: The current chairman and CEO at private retailer J. Crew and former CEO of clothing giant Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS), Millard Drexler joined Apple’s board in 1999. He is credited with guiding Gap to its 1990s peak and played a large role in Apple’s retail store success.
Al Gore: Yes, that Al Gore. The former vice president joined Apple’s board in 2003, and those who have watched his famous speech and documentary An Inconvenient Truth will note Gore passed over the ubiquitous PowerPoint slideshow software in favor of Apple’s similar Keynote program.
Andrea Jung: Andrea Jung is the chairman and CEO of the makeup company Avon Products (NYSE:AVP). She joined the Apple board in 2008 but is a veteran of corporate boardrooms. Jung has served on the board of directors for General Electric (NYSE:GE) since 1998.
Ronald D. Sugar: The former chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), Ronald Sugar, is the most recent Apple appointee. Sugar joined the Apple board in 2010. He began his career as an engineer, previously served on the board of oil giant Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and is a University of Southern California trustee. Sugar obviously has a wealth of diverse experience to draw on.
The makeup of the Apple board is interesting in that, unlike some Silicon Valley companies, Apple continues to draw from folks with broad experiences — people who made their names in retail, aerospace, health care and other industries. Coupled with the very long tenure of most members and their deep roots within Apple, it is easy to see why Apple’s board allows such an innovative culture to thrive.
Other big companies could learn not just from the Iger move, but from the broader makeup of the Apple board with these three simple lessons:
- Find smart people outside your core industry to lend unique perspectives.
- Rely on leaders with deep knowledge of the company and its history.
- Trust your executives to innovate over the long term, not quarter to quarter.
Of course, that’s all easier said than done. And even when it’s done, it’s hard to do it as well as Apple.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.