Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL-NASDAQ) is in the news because of backdated options. Those are options that have been priced on previous closes, ones other than the day the options were granted, always at better prices that give executives a windfall profit. Those options are illegal, and the company is being investigated to determine if back dated options were granted to certain officers, when and how many. Steve Jobs (pictured), the founder and visionary of the company is part of that investigation. That's what we know. Everything else is speculation.
There has been a report that Steve Jobs hired his own personal attorney to deal with this accusation. Some read that as possible admission of guilt already. No way. Corporate counsel is available to all officers and directors at Apple, but that counsel is obligated to put the corporate interests above the individuals involved. After all, it's the company that's paying them, and the shareholders want their money spent on behalf of the company, not an individual. So it's only natural for any one of the officers involved in the investigation to have his or her own attorney. Don't read too much into private attorneys.
Some investors are projecting a worst case scenario: Jobs is guilty and leaves the company. Those are the ones selling the stock now, the ones that drove it down to the high 70's. Any investor with shoot now, aim later mentality should be selling. The facts aren't out but just in case the rumors are right, they'll be out of the stock which will definitely go lower if Jobs leaves the company. He is the visionary who runs a tight ship and makes things happen. Without his guidance the company would change significantly and most likely not in a positive way. He is, in fact, irreplaceable. So these sellers may be the wisest ones.
Another factor to consider: Jobs had pancreatic cancer and survived. He fought that battle and won. He is most likely to want to fight this one as well, to make sure his name is cleared if he is innocent. Then he may retire. There are only so many battles in each of us. While he's been fighting his whole life, he may be ready to stop and do other things. So he may be exonerated and leave anyway. The sellers would again be right to have sold now because the stock would definitely go lower if Jobs leaves, no matter the circumstance.
But there are also lots of buyers, ones that are scooping up a stock that is 20% off its recent highs. They must believe Jobs isn't leaving, that there's plenty more fight in this pugnacious techno-wonder. He is hosting the Macworld next week and anticipation is high that new products such as the iPhone will be introduced. Who knows, there may be a whole cycle of new products waiting to be unleashed that will change other industries. That's what the iPod did for music. That's what the buyers are betting on.
It's all speculation right now. No one knows any facts. Very conservative investors will get out, though very conservative investors have rarely been comfortable with owning Apple. Too much of a one-man show. But what a show. And I think the show will go on.
AAPL 1-yr chart:
Disclosure: Author has no position in AAPL