Members of Apple's board of directors have talked to outside headhunters about a succession plan for the company, if it needs to replace Chief Executive Steve Jobs, The Wall Street Journal reported today.
The Journal cited unnamed sources in the story, who said the conversations with recruiters were not aimed at replacing Jobs, who went on medical leave last winter, but rather were more informal conversations regarding the company's options. The Journal also said the members of the board who approached recruiters were not doing so at the behest of the entire board. It's also unclear whether Jobs was aware these conversations were taking place.
Apple declined to officially comment on the Journal's story, but the newspaper reported that in response to its explicit question to Jobs, he responded via e-mail, "I think it's hogwash."
The Journal said conversations between some board members and recruiters took place after Jobs went on his second medical leave in two years. In January, Jobs left his day-to-day duties at the company due to an undisclosed illness. In 2004, he was treated for a rare form of pancreatic cancer. And he received a liver transplant in 2009.
Since then, investors and corporate-governance experts have pushed the company for details about a possible succession plan at the company. Meanwhile, Apple's board of directors has not shared information about Jobs' current health condition, nor has it said when he might be returning full-time to the company. And it has not disclosed its plan for replacing Jobs, should he need to step down permanently.
Last February, a shareholder proposal asking Apple to disclose its succession plan was defeated at the company's annual meeting.
Still, Jobs is believed to still be actively involved in the company, even showing up to his office often. He has also been involved in product and strategy planning, the Journal said. And he appeared on stage in June at the company's annual developer conference. Bloggers and other media tend to make special note of how thin Jobs looks at his public appearances.
Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, has taken over day-to-day activities in running the company. And he is a candidate for the CEO slot, should Jobs leave.
But as the Journal article also notes, the surge in Apple's stock price in the past five years has made many top executives at Apple rich, which could make it difficult to keep executives and promote from within. Ron Johnson, head of Apple's retail strategy, recently left to take the top job at J.C. Penney. And the company has also lost other top executives.
CNET currently is live-blogging Apple's second-quarter earnings call with analysts and investors.