Silicon Valley 'Coach' Bill Campbell steps down from Apple board

The longtime Apple board member, who also serves as chairman of Intuit, will be replaced by BlackRock founding partner Susan L. Wagner.

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Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
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Bill Campbell, chairman of Intuit, has stepped down from Apple's board after 17 years. Intuit

After 17 years on Apple's board, Bill Campbell is saying goodbye.

Apple on Thursday said the executive, who also serves as chairman of business software developer Intuit, is retiring from his role on the board. Campbell was one of the board members appointed by Steve Jobs in 1997 after he returned to run the company.

"When Bill joined Apple's board, the company was on the brink of collapse," Apple CEO Tim Cook said Thursday in a press release. "He not only helped Apple survive, but he's led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable back in 1997."

Susan Wagner, founding partner and director of asset-management company BlackRock, will join Apple's board in Campbell's place. Wagner co-founded BlackRock in 1988 and had held a variety of leadership positions at the company, including vice chairman until mid-2012. She continues to serve on the boards of BlackRock and DSP BlackRock (India), as well as Swiss Re, Wellesley College, and Hackley School.

"Sue is a pioneer in the financial industry and we are excited to welcome her to Apple's board of directors," Cook said. "We believe her strong experience, especially in M&A and building a global business across both developed and emerging markets, will be extremely valuable as Apple continues to grow around the world."

The board change comes as Cook nears his third-year anniversary at the helm of the electronics company. So far, most of Cook's biggest, most distinct accomplishments as CEO come from strategic moves and corporate responsibility efforts rather than from product releases -- though he has promised an "amazing" product lineup for later this year. Cook has been putting his own stamp on Apple since taking over as CEO in August 2011, including by firing executives such as software head Scott Forstall and appointing new leaders such as retail chief Angela Ahrendts.

Last year, Cook inked a long-awaited deal to bring the iPhone to China Mobile, the world's biggest wireless carrier. That move is expected to boost smartphone sales, particularly as mature markets become saturated and growth in those markets, including the US, slows. Cook also has made more than two dozen acquisitions over the past 18 months, including Apple's $3 billion takeover of Beats -- the biggest deal Apple's ever made. Apple will report its fiscal third-quarter earnings Tuesday.

Wagner's background and tenure in finance will be well suited to help Apple with its acquisition and growth plans. She also helps Apple boost its diversity. Of the eight board members, only two are women, and Apple has only one woman on Cook's executive leadership team.

Wagner graduated with honors from Wellesley College with a BA in English and economics, and earned an MBA in finance from the University of Chicago, Apple said. She has been recognized as one of Fortune Magazine's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and honored by the National Council for Research on Women. At BlackRock, she championed and continues to support the Women's Initiative Network, "designed to foster the full potential of women within the company," Apple said.

BlackRock founding partner Susan Wagner has joined Apple's board. Apple

Meanwhile, Campbell -- a man known in Silicon Valley as "The Coach" for the roster of high-profile executives he's mentored -- originally joined Apple as vice president of marketing in 1983. At the time he joined the board, Campbell served as CEO of Intuit.

He's the longest-serving board member in the company's history, next to Apple co-founders Jobs and Mike Markkula. Along with mentoring Jobs, Campbell also advised Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Google bigwigs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.

Campbell's role as "Coach" sometimes caused conflict for Apple. He told Fortune in an interview ahead of Thursday's announcement that Jobs was unhappy with Campbell's role as a mentor to Google's top executives.

"Steve would say, 'If you're helping them you're hurting me.' He would yell at me," Campbell told Fortune. "I'd say, 'I can't do HTML, come on. I'm just coaching them on how to run their company better.'" Despite Jobs' worries, Campbell continued to mentor Google executives for years.

Campbell also played a key role in a recent wage-fixing and collusion scandal that engulfed seven of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley. In addition to being a member of Apple's board, he served on the board of Intuit and advised Google's Schmidt, Page, and Sergey Brin on how to get along.

All three companies were involved in the wage-fixing case, which was settled out of court earlier this year for a reported $324 million. Court documents from the case revealed that Schmidt credited Campbell with creating Google's organizational structure, and that Campbell was the behind-the-scenes connective tissue that tied together Apple, Google, and Intuit. The case also involved Adobe Systems, Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Intel.

Apple declined to make Campbell or Wagner available for interviews Thursday.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. PT: with additional background information.