Apple Inc. named Walt Disney Co. chief executive Robert Iger to its board, as it also bumped up board member Arthur Levinson to the chairman post previously held by company co-founder Steve Jobs.
The moves signal that Apple plans to keep the board in the hands of people close to Mr. Jobs, who died in October after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Mr. Iger, 60 years old, was a friend and business partner of Mr. Jobs and the two worked together since at least 2006, when Disney acquired Pixar Animation Studios. Mr. Jobs was Pixar CEO at the time and became Disney's largest shareholder and a member of the Disney board.
Mr. Levinson has been co-lead director of Apple's board since 2005. He is also the chairman of biotech company Genentech.
The appointment of a nonexecutive chairman was a move some corporate governance experts had long pushed, claiming the eight-member board was too cozy with Mr. Jobs.
While Mr. Jobs was CEO, Apple didn't have a chairman, although he took the title when he stepped aside as chief executive in August. Instead, the company had co-lead directors, most recently Mr. Levinson and Andrea Jung, the chief executive of Avon Products Inc. That structure is being replaced with Mr. Levinson's appointment.
Some Apple shareholders and governance experts have been irked in recent years by how the board handled Mr. Jobs's repeated medical leaves, believing the board ought to have disclosed more about his ailing health than the CEO wanted.
A person familiar with the matter said the reconfiguration of Disney's board, including whether and how to fill the vacancy created by the death of Mr. Jobs, is expected to be addressed at the next annual shareholders' meeting, set for March. While a replacement director could be nominated, this person said, the board may opt to eliminate the seat entirely.
The appointment of an outside chairman and a new independent director "sounds like a good governance move,'' said Ralph A. Walkling, executive director of the Center for Corporate Governance at Drexel University's business school. Mr. Iger "brings expertise in a related industry,'' he added.
But Charles Elson, head of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware's business school, said Mr. Iger's relationship with Mr. Jobs "raises a question or two" about whether he can be independent.
In a statement, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he had gotten to know Mr. Iger well in recent years and highlighted his ability to generate creative content and innovate. "He is going to make an extraordinary addition to our already very strong board," Mr. Cook said.