Monday, March 19, 2012

New Apple CEO Wastes Little Time Unloading Apple's Cash Hoard

I have a few Apple products. Two laptops, an Ipod, and a Bose player. I have an Ipod connection in my car. The Ipod was a beautiful creation. All that music in one very small place.

I love Apple products. My computers cannot get viruses and they are easier to use. The Ipod is a fantastic device. I think the Iphone is as well but I don't have one. I simply refuse to pay monthly phone bills in excess of 100 bucks. Data is what my computer uses.

The Iphone and it's Droid cousins bother me. I am sick of seeing people preoccupied with their phones. It's like a grown up kid freak show. I was at dinner over the weekend and watched 3 young adults at one table, none of them talking to each other, all hunched over their phones like they wanted to be somewhere else. 

Virtually every retirement fund, mutual fund, and high flying money manager owns Apple stock. It has been the darling of Wall Street. Apple is what America was. The capital appreciation in this stock has been outstanding. And while Steve Jobs was running the company, there was no way in hell Apple was ever going to pay a dividend. The only way to make money with Apple stock was to buy some and sell it at some higher price later on. Jobs was content with that. With a war chest right at 100 billion, a "Jobs" less Apple caved into the demands of investors. Today, Apple announced a ten billion share re-purchase program and an annual dividend of over 10 bucks a share. That is ginormous. In fact, they will burn off 45 billion dollars in the next 3 years.

This will give every one who owns Apple an artificial top with which to unload shares. A chance to sell. Apple traded north of 600 a share at one point today. All those company insiders can cash out.

Steve Jobs was a maverick. A very real and astute businessman. I simply cannot envision him unloading that cash hoard like this. Jobs was the supreme capitalist. I think he might have used that mountain of cash to take over the world or at least take Apple private again. I mean, why spread the wealth around? That's what socialists do. Jobs was no socialist. He socialized labor- paying rock bottom wages to Chinese working stiffs but he sure in the hell didn't socialize profits. Well, any more than he thought was necessary.

That leads me to my one great knock on Jobs. Greed. The absolute and most fascinating thing about human behavior is that successful human beings, really successful ones, simply cannot take their foot off the accelerator. Greed and enormous egos must be joined. At no point does a truly successful capitalist ever say, "Ok, I've got enough money." In fact, they do the opposite. They look to wring every last penny they can out of their businesses and the people that work for them. 

In America, we worship greed. So maybe Jobs was simply a piece of Americana on steroids. There is no way in hell- Jobs would have supported this waste of the company cash hoard. The surviving and succeeding Apple executives and board, with Jobs gone, have done the predictable thing. They have found a way to get their hands on that cash and enrich themselves. Thus the life cycle of a great American company comes into full view. Apple has now left the growth stage and entered the mature phase of it's existence. Middle age. Perhaps the next artificial growth spurt will be a stock split or two as Apple becomes just another blue chip stock. We'll see. Personally, I liked it better when Jobs was around. It would have been fun to see Steve take over the world.

No comments: