What Apple Investors Can Learn From Walt Disney

Jan. 19, 2011 6:41 AM ETAAPL, DIS10 Comments
John Tobey, CFA profile picture
John Tobey, CFA

Uncertain about your investment in Apple (AAPL) without Steve Jobs? A relevant historical comparison is Disney (DIS) and its loss of Walt Disney in 1966.

Personal note: It can appear cold-hearted to discuss an opportunity resulting from a respected leader’s illness or death. However, it’s not selfish or unseemly to determine the fate of your investments in a time of major change. Moreover, finding opportunity in the company can be seen as a sign that the now-absent leader created something of lasting value.
Walt Disney’s leadership similarities with Steve Jobs
The Associated Press (AP) report of Disney’s December 15, 1966 death had the following descriptions of Disney:

Disney was entertainment’s most successful practitioner... He pioneered… [long list of accomplishments]... Success and honors piled up in profusion for the creator-tycoon.

And perhaps most like Jobs: “Disney was a stubborn non-conformist who brought his imaginative dreams to reality.”
Guarded release of medical information
Some have criticized Apple’s secretiveness about Steve Jobs’ medical issues. While companies must notify investors about major corporate events, an individual’s personal rights (think medical privacy) can outweigh that requirement.
Forty-five years ago, Walt Disney Productions was following the same strategy about Walt Disney’s health.
In December 1966, it was now public knowledge that Disney had undergone a successful lesion removal from his left lung the month before and that he was up and about. (At the end of this article, you can read how and when the company delivered that information to investors.)
So, Walt Disney’s death was a surprise. In its article, AP said,

His studio [Walt Disney Productions], after at first declining to give the cause of death, later attributed it to ‘acute circulatory collapse.’ There was no elaboration. However, the Associated Press was told by an informed source Disney suffered from spreading cancer.

This article was written by

John Tobey, CFA profile picture
I am the founder and editor of Investment Directions. My career has been managing and consulting to multi-billion dollar funds. Using the widely accepted “multi-manager” approach, I have worked with top investment managers throughout the country, gaining a high level of expertise. My career has spanned many market environments, and I have hands-on experience searching out opportunities and avoiding risks in all of them. I now devote my time to Investment Directions, with the goal of helping investors further their understanding and improve their investing skills. I am currently serving on: The AAUW Investment Advisers Committee and The City of Vista Investment Advisory Committee.

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