Why rumors are flying that Apple may fire Tim Cook

Chris Gayomali
The Week
Is Tim Cooked?

The latest murmurs suggest Steve Jobs' successor is on his way to being ousted. Not so fast...

Apple's Tim Cook has so far had a volatile tenure. As CEO, he has seen the company's stock price soar to over $700 a share last September, before it fell precipitously to half its peak value last week. Then there was the Maps disaster, the public ousting of top executives, and impressive gains made by encircling wolves like Samsung. To say Apple's shareholders aren't elated with the company's apparent trajectory would be accurate.

And yet, Apple — which is worth several billions more than it ever was under Steve Jobs — is still in a horse race with Exxon Mobile for the transient title of the world's most valuable company. The iPhone 5 sold out 20 times faster than the 4 and the 4S, and the iPad Mini is quickly on its way to passing up its full-sized sibling, which holds the distinction of being the best-selling tablet ever.

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In spite of all that, the latest rumblings from Wall Street suggest that Apple may be looking to replace its even-tempered leader with someone more dynamic. Take this tweet from hedge fund manager, CNBC analyst, and Apple shareholder Doug Kass posted on Sunday (Gnome means insider, we think): 

From my Gnome,high above the Alps - "Is Apple's Tim Cook... Cooked?" #stockaction $SPy

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— Douglas Kass (@DougKass) April 22, 2013

As Phili Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune points out, the last time Kass was in the news was for some sketchy trading right before Apple's annual shareholder meeting:

Apple's (AAPL) share price was down and Kass was long the stock. He tweeted a rumor that the company was about to announce a split, the stock went up, he sold his shares at a profit. [Next] he tweeted that the rumor was baseless and then spent the rest of the day hurling insults at his critics. [Fortune]

(Business Insider took a closer at Kass' actions that day here.)

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In a Forbes article, which was also published Sunday, columnist Gene Marcial joins the Tim-Cook-is-on-his-way-out rumor mill. Marcial says that his sources tell him "such a move is afoot." But then he concedes in the next sentence that "there's no available evidence that the board of the once-mighty top tech-innovator is officially in such a game-changing mode." (Noteworthy: A fellow Forbes blogger claims in the comments section of Marcial's post that Marcial's sources are "making it up.")

Completing the trifecta of Apple doomsaying was this puzzling TG Daily column by technology analyst Rob Enderle, who argues that Apple is beyond broken, and the only way to stop the bleeding is to elect a new board of directors. "Apple needs a board made up of people who understand how to manage a premium brand," argues Enderle. That way, if Cook is given the boot, this newly elected board can appoint a CEO who's more capable.

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Enderle singles out one member — Al Gore — but who else is on Apple's board? Well, there's Intuit Corp.'s Bill Campbell (you may have heard of the company's flagship product: TurboTax), Millard Drexler of J. Crew, Robert A. Iger of The Walt Disney Company, and Andrea Jung of Avon, among others. Surely one of them knows a thing or two about running a multi-billion dollar "premium brand"? Enderle laments that "this isn't just Apple's problem, it is a national issue, and that is why so few companies last more than a couple of decades."

"Do me a favor. Read Rob Enderle's latest column. Think about it," says John Gruber at Daring Fireball. "Serious question: Is he really this much of an idiot, or, is he a sublimely masterful troll? I honestly can't tell."

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So Apple is apparently in drastic need of a leadership shakeup, at least according to three rich men making up a small but vocal minority. (Marcial even admits that "most analysts at major Wall Street firms remain generally positive towards Apple.") Per their logic, being the second most valuable company in the world in the middle of a product cycle somehow qualifies as a catastrophe. But, hey, at least no one made the pedestrian observation that Tim Cook isn't Steve Jobs, right?

Oh wait. Never mind.

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