By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 25, 2010

The press, as usual, was barred from bringing communication devices into the Apple (AAPL) shareholders meeting that began at 1 p.m. EST (10 a.m. PST) Thursday.

But, as often happens, word is leaking out despite the blackout thanks to iPhones in the hands of shareholders who shall go unnamed. We’ll post their dispatches (all times EST) as they come in.

12:37 Just going in to mtg hall … Said hello to [Roughly Drafted’s] Daniel Eran Dilger. [CNBC’s] Jim Goldman is on scene… I’ll try to say hi after the mtg. Security is very prominent

12:59 Board now taking their seats [Al] Gore, [Andrea] Jung and [Bill] Campbell all in the house. Now Apple mgmt. [Steve] Jobs in the house kicking off the mtg

1:00: Jobs looks good!

1:08 Voting and formalities … Yawn. Shelton Ehrlich now protesting Al Gore glaciers are not melting! Another shareholder stands in support of Gore to resounding applause

1:13  Sustainability proposal now on stage. Environmental groups pushing for an even greener Apple

1:21 The ever entertaining Shelton Ehrlich at the mike again calling environmental movement a new religion and sustainability proposal should be voted down. The environmentalists are not happy w/Ehrlich and they are here in force grabbbing the mike to counter Ehrlich

1:27 Sustainability proposal voted down by shareholders. Steve back on stage with [COO] Tim Cook and [CFO] Peter Oppenheimer. Shareholder says very glad to have Jobs health and back! big applause! Jobs thanks Tim Cook for his stewardship

1:43 Twenty five Apple Stores planned for China over next 2 years [Ed note: This is material news.]

1:47 [Unnamed shareholder] grabbed the mike. Thanked Tim Cook for his presentation at Goldman Sachs Tech Conference. Thanked [Senior VP] Ron Johnson for his stores and China plans. Then requested that the board meet and authorize a share buyback. Steve thanked [shareholder] for the input ;)

1:50 Steve answering vast majority of Qs … He is looking and sounding in fine form!

1:54 Steve is as feisty as ever (suggesting that questioners come to an actual question) and in good humor!

2:03 Shareholder says Apple needs more women on Apple’s board … Thanks and applauds [Avon CEO] Andrea Jung and asks if Tipper Gore can join the board

2:03 [Reuters is reporting that Jobs told shareholders that the company’s $40 billion cash balance offered it more flexibility and security, and that a dividend or stock split would not change its value. He said the company is now big enough that it had to “think big” to move the needle. Bloomberg reports it slightly differently: “Apple is holding onto cash to take ‘big, bold’ risks, Jobs said.”]

2:06 [Apple’s shares moved briefly into positive territory, having been down more than 1% most of the day, after CNBC said Apple was considering a 4-for-1 stock split, citing “market rumors.”]

Wall Street Journal
is reporting that when asked about Eric Schmidt (Google’s CEO who left Apple’s board last summer), Jobs defended him: “Eric Schmidt conducted himself appropriately and recused himself on matters that might involve conflict.”]

2:08 In response to more environmentalists’ Qs, Jobs is very cogently and passionately defending Apple’s environmental record. Another shareholder then asked a longwinded Q about what Apple/Jobs fears. “What keeps you awake at night?” … Jobs deadpans: “Shareholders meetings.” Audience erupts in laughter ;)

2:12 iPhone exclusivity question (Verizon): No comment… Not even a hint

2:19 Meeting winding down. Jobs cracking jokes … In total charge of the meeting, now over

That’s a wrap.

CNBC’s Jim Goldman filed a video report shortly before 4 p.m. that included this quote from Jobs on why Apple keeps so much cash on hand: “We want to take risks, technical risks … We want to know that the ground is still beneath us when we jump.”

Apple shares closed at $202, up 1.34 points (0.67%) on a day that the Dow fell 0.51%.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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