Tim Cook's $100 Billion 'Mistake'

Tim Cook AppleAPApple CEO Tim Cook

Apple’s stock has been on a tear this year.

It’s up ~53% since the end of April as Apple has delivered strong revenue and profit growth. The iPhone 6 is selling in record numbers, and investors are eagerly anticipating the release of the Apple Watch.

So, all is well with Apple!

However, that doesn’t mean the company, or its management, is immune from critique.

Last week, fund manager Eric Jackson wrote a provocative column arguing that Apple CEO Tim Cook had wasted over $US100 billion on stock buybacks and dividends.

Jackson thinks Apple would have been smarter to hold on to the money and spend it on strategic acquisitions to bolster its product line. Jackson suggested Apple buy Twitter, Tesla, Pinterest, and spend $US20 billion R&D.

Ben Thompson, an analyst who runs his own site, Stratechery, completely disagrees with Jackson. He thinks Apple shouldn’t try to acquire a bunch of companies. Thompson thinks Apple needs to focus on its core business: making the best personal computers in the world. Bringing in all those other companies would be a distraction.

I got into a debate with Thompson and Jackson on Twitter about this topic. I tend to agree with Jackson in the big picture. I think Apple shouldn’t have spent $US100 billion share buybacks. I think there are smarter, more strategic uses for the cash like buying Tesla or Dropbox. Or, just holding on to the cash.

Rather than just battle back and forth on Twitter, I thought it would make sense to get all three of us together for a podcast.

Normally, I do a podcast with Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times, but he’s off this week. So, instead of chatting with him, I spoke with Jackson and Thompson about Apple’s $US100 billion “mistake” as Jackson calls it.

We also touch on Yahoo and the NBA. Give it a listen!

I record this podcast on a weekly basis. You can subscribe to it in iTunes here. Here’s an RSS link to the show. I use SoundCloud as a host, so you can listen to the show over there, too.

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