In defense of Apple's Tim Cook
Apple's chief executive is building a team capable of sustaining success over the long term. So why root for him to be fired?
Running a big company is not like running a baseball team.
We're used to calling on the managers or general managers of our favorite teams to be fired willy-nilly, and they often are, in all sports. Even though we know that long-term success comes from keeping faith with someone through the hard times, we still do it.
So why don't we have patience with Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook? Obviously, it's because a lot of people have lost a lot of money over the last six months, making short-term bets on the long-term proposition that is Apple Inc.
Whose fault is that? Is it Cook's? Or is it ours?
On the eve of Apple's latest earnings release, we're hearing the same Monday morning quarterbacking you get after your baseball team loses. Our Rocco Pendola has compiled some of the latest. What Wall Street wants now, as Wired notes, is some quick action to boost the stock price, which when you take the cash out is now cheaper than Ford Motor (F).
But the fact is, managing any big company for the short term is like thinking a single player or coach will win you a championship. It's done by teams. Casey Stengel didn't win any pennants managing the Boston Braves. Winners are also teams whose leaders are looking at the long term, not the short term.
What you want in a business
I'm privileged to be a fan of the Atlanta Braves baseball team. They have won one title, in 1995. But they are always in the hunt. They're always very good. They make money. They're an organization. And that's what you want out of a business, as opposed to a sports team. You want an organization.
That's what Tim Cook is trying to build, an organization. Out of the top-down entrepreneurial genius that Steve Jobs left him, Cook is trying to build an organization that can win consistently.
By many measures he is doing just that.
- The market share for the iPhone is up against Android, not down, according to Comscore.
- The Apple iCloud is now the largest media "cloud" in the business, according to Stratagy Analytics (reported by our James Rogers)
- Apple is the only computer maker that has made a success of its own stores, the only one that controls its whole value chain.
- Apple's margins may be falling a bit from their Jobs-era highs, but they are still incredibly high for any computer manufacturer in the history of the business, at almost 24%, according to Ycharts.
- Apple's share of the PC market continues to rise steadily, accordng to IDC.
Buy when everyone is selling
If you buy Apple stock today, you will make a profit in five years. When everyone is selling something, that's when you should be buying. But this has nothing to do with whether Apple is a well-managed company, managed for the long term.
Fact is, Apple is being managed for the long term. Tim Cook isn't going anywhere. Maybe he won't win you many championships as a manager, but he's going to be in the hunt every year, and that's what you want when you're betting your retirement or your kids' college education on someone. I'm not firing the Braves' manager because they lost three in Pittsburgh over the weekend. I'm not firing Cook, either.
At current prices, Apple is a stock you can stick in your portfolio, with some confidence that five or 10 years from now you will have made money on it. In a technology market with all the stability of a baseball season, that's a winning play.
At the time of publication, the author owned shares of Apple.
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