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"Feisty" Steve Jobs Ponders a $40B Shopping Spree at Apple Shareholder Meeting

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Described as "feisty," Steve Jobs was on form yesterday at Apple's shareholder meeting—his first back since the recent health issues that forced him to step down temporarily as CEO. One, Infinite Loop, on the Apple Campus, was the venue, and the event kicked-off at 10 a.m. sharp. And the most interesting part of the show was trying to work out just what Apple is going to do with its gigantic cash reserves.

Amongst all the fabulous news—the company's $40 billion war chest, the expansion into China at an incredible warp-speed rate, there was one rather dispiriting piece of news: The shareholders voted against proposals to measure its impact on the environment—something board member Al Gore won't be too happy about. (The former VPOTUS, will, however, have been chuffed when co-lead director of the Apple Board, Andrea Jung, following a shareholder's proposal for more female directors, suggested Al's wife Tipper. Although, as the force behind the PMRC, she might have something to say about the company's recent shenanigans in the row over explicit apps.)

Jobs revealed that there are plans afoot to open 25 Apple Stores in China. Despite poor iPhone sales over there, where the cellphone market is absolutely vast, Apple does not have the same problems that a certain company we could mention has, as it doesn't clash with Chinese regulations. The company's Q1 conference call back in January showed that sales were up 40 per cent in most of Europe, 70% in Australia, and 100% in China.

Let's go back to the $40 billion in cash. (Wouldn't it be great if it was all held in used notes, taped up in battered suitcases under Steve's bed?) Rather than dole some of it out in the form of dividends to investors, Jobs advocated that they use it for "big, bold" risks. This is great medium-term strategy, but in the long term, Apple needs to translate it into something really worth talking about. As well as the dinky new products they've probably got up the sleeves of their black turtlenecks, my money's on turning iTunes into an iMedia store, and developing iWork and iLife into the Cloud.

[Via Apple Insider and Fortune Brainstorm Tech]

[Image Via Apple]

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  • Half Green

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  • Robert Klein

    Apple needs to take a page from Wal-Mart's playbook. [USA Today] I am not comparing Apple stores to Wal-Mart stores, but I am concerned about mfg responsibility, to distribution.

  • Tom DeSantis

    @addy - Fast Company is guilty of doing exactly what other -self-important media types are doing - distorting the news of the day. No wonder why the public so vigorously distrusts politicians and the media. I can't count how many times I've listened to or been in attendance at a conference - to hear some media hack report it back in some mangled way - adiing and deleting basic facual content.

  • bill right

    What a company, most would be forced to give a large dividend to their shareholders.

    But apple needs to develop new products to stay on top of the industry. It is hard to come up with one winner after another.

    Best Regards
    Bill @
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  • Mak

    How about reinvesting in American entrepreneurship to create work? This is perhaps one of the single fundamental roots of current employment problems: too many companies (having gained the lions share via downsizing to capture huge margins in recent decade) with massive cash reserve. Capital flow: an essential element that lubricates the gear of our economy. Is anyone paying attention to this? Are we being wagged by too any distracting non-relevant political dog and pony shows to see real roots of the problem?

  • Chris Reich

    With respect Addy I'd like to put a subject on the table in very serious need of correction. I'm tired of reporting based on second and third hand information.

    Reporting on reporting compounds distortion and I believe this is a major contributing factor to the polarization of everything. When a reporter reads a report by someone else, they are getting their first taste of bias. Compound the acquired bias with their own bias and the delivered story is very different from the actual event. (See comments posted by Nancy)

    Of course this story about Apple isn't news reporting, it's more akin to a gossip column, but still. This practice is rampant in real news reporting and it's destructive. Rumors of rumors are reported as facts, sometimes destroying lives and igniting wars in the process.

    If a story is second hand, the reporter has an obligation to say so and clearly.

    How does reporting on reporting cause polarization? When people mistrust news sources, they move toward sources that they believe "tell the real truth". This real truth is usually news that confirms what they believe. So the liberal watches Rachel Maddow for the truth and the tea bagger gravitates to Glenn Beck. Neither 'side' gets truth; both sides gather some inflammation, and most think they are 'independent' and open-minded. All the while we swim in a sea of confusion, knocked about by rogue waves and pursued by sharks.

    Thanks Nancy, good reporting!

    Addy, I'm not picking on you. But I wanted to bring up the issue.

    Chris Reich

  • David Rosen

    Two major items you uncovered Addy.
    1. Apples refusal to measure its environmental impact is disheartening and will really be a good test of the power of "Green" buyers. While climate data is suspect and now tabled as wrong, there are many other factors to be measured such as toxic chemical management, use of non-renewable materials, lifecycle impact when Apple products go into waste, and other environmental and governance issues.

    2. Steve Jobs is Retiring in Five Years. The pondering of the cash hoard is an important issue to address growth which very few companies are considering. Most companies are focused on EBIT management, and considering using the $40B is a good start. However, it is critical that the $40B considered to be an investment base meaning it has to achieve revenue and profit growth above the current business. This is not easy.

    It appears that Steve Jobs may be ready to retire in 5 years. We have seen that CEO's, five years prior to retirement will make a BIG move. An example is Lee Iacocca buying Jeep and then building his Engineering Center at Chrysler. Those BIG deals, usually acquisitions, rarely achieve the objectives and goals that were established.

    Apple is a great product company, but needs to be careful about its investments.

    My two (or three) cents.
    David A. Rosen
    Acrelic Group

  • Addy Dugdale

    @Nancy Daley. Hi Nancy, thanks for your comment. I actually wrote this up from a couple of reports--one by Apple Insider, and the other from Fortune's Philip Elmer DeWitt, who claimed that Jobs was in "feisty" form--hence the quotation marks. The reason I called the vote against the environmental measures "dispiriting" is that we at Fast Company like to think of ourselves as business-minded tree huggers, so it wasn't a statement on the Apple board's reaction, merely ours.

    From your words, I'm assuming that you were there. So spill the beans on how the meeting went. We'd love to know more. Did you ask for more women on the board? How do you think Steve should spend the $40 billion? Do tell!

  • Nancy Daley

    Wow. Not exactly how I remember it.... And while the preliminary vote was against both of those shareholder measures, the Board of Directors recommended a "no" vote. So they can't be too very unhappy for the results to be as they recommended. And the shareholder "proposal" for more women, specifically Tipper Gore, was an off the cuff remark by a single shareholder.

    If that was a "feisty" exchange with a CEO, I suggest the author attend more shareholder meetings.