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Monday, February 07, 2011, 05:15 am PT (08:15 am ET)

35% of companies, including Apple, have a CEO succession plan

While investors attempt to strongarm Apple's board of directors into publicizing their CEO succession plan, a recent survey found that just 35 percent of companies have drafted such a plan.

A December survey of 1,318 executives by Korn/Ferry International, as noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, found that 98 percent believe a CEO succession plan is an important part of corporate governance. But the poll found only 35 percent of companies have planned for the departure of their CEO.

"Given the number of abrupt, high profile executive departures this year, it's surprising that more companies are not acting with greater urgency to put a CEO succession plan in place," said Joe Griesedieck, vice chairman and managing director of Korn/Ferry Board & CEO Services Practice.

"In today's environment, succession planning should be a part of any company's standard approach to governance."

In January, it was revealed that a group of shareholders is attempting to force Apple to disclose a written CEO succession policy. The proposal came to light in the company's 2011 Proxy Statement filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Apple opposes the proposal, but has noted that the company maintains a confidential "comprehensive succession plan." The board of directors of the Cupertino, Calif., company views the publishing of the plan as a move that would give Apple's competitors an "unfair advantage."

Talk of Apple's succession plan picked up once again in January, when Apple announced that its chief executive, Steve Jobs, would take another medical leave of absence from the company. Jobs said in a statement that he will remain CEO and be involved in all major strategic decisions, but said he must leave his day-to-day role to focus on his health.

Overseeing the company's daily operations is Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who previously took over for Jobs in another medical leave of absence in 2009. Jobs eventually returned to work in June of 2009 after he received a liver transplant.

The investor proposal to disclose Apple's CEO succession plan will be in the hands of shareholders at the company's annual meeting on Feb. 23. Though Apple has recommended that shareholders vote against it, the plan did recently receive support from influential advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services.