Who Is on Apple's Board, and Why

At seven, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has a relatively small number of directors for a huge public company. The board is particularly stable, too. Besides CEO Tim Cook, four other directors have been members since before Steve Jobs died in October 2011. The newest director in terms of service was added over five years ago. Members range from a former vice president to the retired heads of two large multinational, publicly traded companies.

Cook has been with Apple since 1998 and became a board member in 2011, the same year he became chief executive officer. He is the only Apple employee who is on the board.

Apple’s board chair, Art Levinson, has been on the board since 2000. He took over as chair when Jobs died. Levinson ran one of the world’s largest and oldest biotech companies, Genentech, from 1995 until 2009. He is essentially a scientist. He oversaw many of the research operations of Genentech before he was promoted to the CEO position. He has written many scientific papers and holds several patents. Levinson has years of large company governance experience. His background as a scientist gives him an understanding of a tech company most other corporate executives do not have. As the longest-serving member, he also ties Apple to the period when its flagship product, the iPhone, was still in its early stages of development and sales.

Al Gore has been on the board since 2003, two years after the end of his two terms as U.S. vice president and a run for president, which he nearly won. Large corporate boards often appoint retired politicians to create bonds with government organizations and regulators. Within three years after he left the government, Gore became the most visible environmentalist in the world, which continues to be the case today. Apple has changed its use of energy to the point that it is considered one of the largest green companies in the world. Apple recently announced that it would be 100% carbon neutral through both its product line and its supply chain.

Andrea Jung has been on Apple’s board since 2008. She joined the board during her brief period of success at Avon, the cosmetics company, where she was CEO from 1999 until 2012. She was pushed out at the end of her tenure. Jung is not a typical large company board member because she presided over a troubled period at another public company that was not turned around when she was there. Apple says she holds the position because of her international business experience.

Ron Sugar joined the Apple board in 2010, the year after he retired as CEO of one of America’s largest public companies, defense contractor Northrup Grumman. He had that the job for six years. Sugar has an engineering background, which is an obvious advantage for an Apple board member. He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from UCLA. His experiences with overseas business and relationships he developed with leaders in countries around the world as head of a defense contractor have a clear advantage to Apple.

Sue Wagner joined the Apple board in 2014. As a co-founder of BlackRock’s asset management operation, she has tremendous access to the financial world. BlackRock is America’s largest money manager, with assets over $7.4 trillion. Its operations span the world. BlackRock has offices in more than 60 countries. Wagner has been BlackRock’s chief operating officer. The company is also among the largest employers on Wall Street, with over 16,000 people.

James Bell, Apple’s most recently appointed board member, joined in 2015. He was executive vice president, corporate president and chief financial officer of Boeing from 2008 to 2012. He is the only Apple board member who has run the financial operations at a huge public company. Bell also sits on the board of JPMorgan.

Apple’s proxy shows that the directors other than Cook received cash compensation of $100,000 last year. Levinson gets $200,000 as chair. In 2019, each director received stock awards worth just over $250,000. Some board members have Apple stock holdings worth tens of millions of dollars. Levinson owns 1,148,712 shares. Gore owns 115,014. Apple’s stock currently trades at $435 a share.

Based on the past, Apple may not add another director for several years. It already has a group that serves it well as a multinational company that needs strong relationships overseas and people with extensive research and development backgrounds.