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4/22/2013
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Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?

Apple board may have started secret search for new CEO, one report says.

Apple iPhone 5S: The Hot Rumors
Apple iPhone 5S: The Hot Rumors
(click image for slideshow)
Apple's board of directors may secretly be looking for an executive to replace current CEO Tim Cook, reports Forbes. Citing Wall Street sources, Forbes says the search cannot be confirmed, but it is a distinct possibility given the massive drop in Apple's stock price over the last six months.

In September 2012, Apple's stock price reached its zenith, at $702 per share. Since then, it has lost nearly half its value. The company's stock had plunged to $390 per share as of April 19 at the market's close. The company has lost about half its overall market value since Tim Cook took over as CEO in August 2011 just prior to Steve Jobs' death in October 2011.

Large shareholders in the company have been selling off stock consistently over the last six months, which has contributed to the decline in share price.

What has investors spooked? Apple's momentum -- or, more accurately, its lack thereof.

[ Word is that Apple's next iPad, due out this fall, will weigh little more than a pound. Read New iPad To Be Thinner, Lighter: Report. ]

Apple's share price hit its high point at about the time the company introduced the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 was the first new iPhone form factor from Apple in two full years, as the iPhone 4 and 4S were nearly identical. It was thinner, lighter and more powerful than its predecessors, and it put Apple on a more-even playing field with the company's fast-moving competitors. Although Apple later introduced the iPad Mini and a revamped iMac desktop computer in October, it's all been downhill from there.

Apple has not announced any new products for six months. Apple hasn't gone this long without a major product introduction in about 13 years. At the same time, Apple's competitors, notably Samsung, have introduced a half dozen new smartphones and tablets. Further, Apple has had to apologize several times for faulty software and other problems.

Forbes points out that Apple still has plenty of supporters in the investing community. It says none of the 37 analysts at major security firms who follow Apple have downgraded Apple's stock to a "sell," but some have downgraded it from "strong buy" to "moderate buy." Investors, it seems, find some solace in the fact that Apple has about $137 billion in the bank, which it might use to offer dividends or even buy back stock.

Fortune calls to question the veracity of the Forbes report, however. It claims that Forbes' sources are not friends of Apple and have interests other than Apple's in mind.

"As far as I know," wrote Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt, "[Cook] still has the deep respect of the analysts who know the company best and -- most important -- the confidence of the board of directors who granted a million restricted shares of Apple as an incentive for him to stick around for at least a decade."

Apple reports earnings on April 23. Investors will be looking to Cook for some reassurance that things are going to get better.

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AnhC699
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AnhC699,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/4/2014 | 6:42:12 AM
thanks
thanks so much for this
rstark91301
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rstark91301,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2013 | 6:35:00 PM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
Tim Cooks seems like a fine CEO. What, I believe, Apple needs is a creative/inventive CIO! Steve Jobs admired Disney. Disney has, all these years, suffered from not having a Disney family member succeed Walt. The Disney Company seems "headless" as does Apple just now.
The public needs someone to believe in. Simple as that. The closest to Steve in "look and feel" is Johnny Ive. Let him spearhead the public image bring him out and let him take center stage from Tim. It won't hurt Tim's feelings one bit and will help Apple sore higher as before!
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2013 | 4:46:06 PM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
Replacing Cook will be the ultimate tail wagging the dog. Apple is in good shape, strong financially, has a bazillion dollars in its coffers. Coming down from >$700/share was going to happen at sometime. Still, Apple's P/E is around 9, which is pretty darn good (lower than Google's P/E, I believe).
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2013 | 1:39:33 AM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
Before anyone else can say it... Wozniak for CEO! :) Immense respect for the Woz.

It honestly doesn't matter that under Cook's reign as CEO that Apple's "coming back to Earth" with regards to the financials - the point is that the stockholders want someone that can keep the value of the stock on the rise. You either have successful numbers, or you look for another job.

What it's coming down to is, not the touchy-feely-warm fuzzy that most of the trendy hipsters always felt towards the Jobs and the company, but the fact that this is a business enterprise. The bloom is off the rose, as it were.

And honestly, I think if Apple's board wants to bring some of that back, they might do well to add Woz as an advisor for the enthusiasm factor and someone to lead the business side.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
TreeInMyCube
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TreeInMyCube,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2013 | 8:52:23 PM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
Where's the narrative that blames Cook for Apple's financial performance, or non-performance? The JC Penney CEO clearly made mistakes that cost his company dearly; Apotheker took credit for some clunkers at HP. Is anyone seriously contending that Cook is encouraging Apple to be less innovative, or to release products more slowly?
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
4/22/2013 | 6:24:19 PM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
I agree that it's kind of dumb to blame Cook. Not sure I agree that Apple is overvalued, though.

First, on why it's dumb to blame Cook.

Yes, some legitimate concerns have led to the stock decline: consumer loyalty has dropped because the iPhone, while still excellent, is no longer leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, and has seemed stuck in a period of incremental upgrades; the botched Maps launch; Siri is still fun but not a reliable tool; Samsung in the on the war path and Android is projected to be the OS king for the rest of the decade; etc.

But this doesn't justify dumping the CEO. For one thing, Apple still makes money hand over foot. Yes, they missed analyst estimates during the last period-- but have you ever seen a company perform better while still missing estimates? The fact is, Apple not only sells a lot of devices but also enjoys excellent margins on most of them. One could justifiably be concerned that the alleged "cheap iPhone" will cut into these margins-- but that's probably a necessary risk, given that it should result in increased global market share and more customers in the App Store.

Speaking of the App Store, Cupertino is still the leader in overall app revenue and, according to most sources I've seen, the top priority for developers. Moreover, the iPhone is also still the top single device not only among consumers but also within the enterprise market. The iPad has actually lost some business ground to cheaper Android tablets, and I'm sure Windows 8 will eventually eat into both iOS and Android-- but for the moment, Apple still has a big lead in the tablet market. On top of all this, Apple, while not immune to the PC slowdown, has weathered the storm better than any company not named Lenovo. Among companies that sell premium machines, Apple certainly seems to have handily beaten the market.

In short, Apple has concrete success and only circumstantial (if still real) risks of failure. The company's performance simply doesn't justify dumping the leader-- especially since there isn't a Jobs-like visionary waiting to assume the reigns. There would be an argument for Johnny Ive, I guess, but if Cook were dumped for some outsider, I'd frankly be more concerned than I imagine long-term investors are right now.

Apple hasn't released a major product in six months-- that's true. But wearable technology and television are reportedly among the company's forthcoming exploits, and if they get the UI and app philosophy right, those are multi-billion dollar revenue streams that the company doesn't currently have, and which (unlike the iPad) don't obviously cannibalize existing products. Sure, other companies are investing in the same tech-- but since none of the new products are going to be cheap at launch, I think the company that executes best stands a good chance of winning. Will that be Apple? Maybe not. But there's not an objectively strong reason to assume Samsung, Google or Microsoft will get it right first.

But about Apple's stock being overvalued? That's a point I disagree with. Perhaps the value was inflated when shared reached $700+, fueled by the irrational expectation that there would be no lulls between major Apple advancements. But investors have been routinely stupid for years when it comes to Apple. I remember feeling astonished when the stock bottomed out during the recession at $60 or something similarly insane. At that point, the company had posted huge profits for several consecutive quarters, but Wall Street kept telling itself that Apple built luxury products that were too expensive to weather the financial pressure. Some of the same stupidity is driving the stock down now. Large investments aren't just made by retirement funds and other long-term investors; they're also made by hedge funds that are exclusively interested in short term gains. Downward movement based on this kind of pressure isn't necessarily an indication of where the company is headed ultimately but rather an indication of where jumpy investors think the company might be in three or six months. The company has more than twice as much money in the bank as Microsoft for crying out loud-- and Microsoft, which has also been the victim of some whimsical investor tantrums, isn't exactly chopped liver.

Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
Mr. Gigabob
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Mr. Gigabob,
User Rank: Strategist
4/22/2013 | 6:02:33 PM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
Just dumb - who is planning to sack the steward of a megacap business that is in fantastically good health and at the peak of its game? Sure the stock may suck - relatively - but where else do you get to buy in to a company earning $10B a quarter for a sub 10 P/E and more cash than the US government?
CLAFOUNTAIN100
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CLAFOUNTAIN100,
User Rank: Strategist
4/22/2013 | 3:01:56 PM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
I think Tim Cook has done a fine job. But he was an Operations Manager under Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a designer, and Tim likely created the systems and operations necessary to see the company be a success, and have more capital than Google, Sony, Dell Computer, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.

I think it's pretty classy that under Tim Cook's Watch, he made a decision to bring Macbook manufacturing back to the US too.
mdg1019
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mdg1019,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/22/2013 | 2:44:34 PM
re: Is Apple Looking For Tim Cook Replacement?
Kind of dumb to blame Cook for what was inevitable. Anybody would more than 2 brain cells to rub together could see how overvalued Apple stock has been for years now and still is. The implosion would have happened even if God (oops I mean Steve Jobs) was still on the job.
Server Market Splitsville
Server Market Splitsville
Just because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.
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