Remembering Steve Jobs
Well… how time flies… it’s now been over five years since Steve Jobs – Apple’s charismatic founder and CEO – passed away in August 2011. And, the much-anticipated movie “Steve Jobs” – a biopic that purportedly highlights three key events in Steve’s life and career, opened in theaters recently – to mixed reviews, with many who knew Steve intimately, criticizing the movie as mostly a piece of fiction and others saying that even so, it did present a true picture of the man and his many complexities… but let me not veer into playing film critic, and stick to what I know best – stocks and investments.
So what the Steve Jobs movie reminds many Apple investors of is the phenomenal rise in Apple stock after Jobs re-took the helm at Apple as CEO in 1997. Just to recap, when Jobs came back, Apple was just a few months away from bankruptcy, with a dwindling 4 percent share of the PC market and annual losses exceeding $1 billion. Three CEOs had come and gone in a decade; board members had tried to sell the company but found no takers. Michael Dell famously told a tech industry symposium that if he ran Apple, he’d “shut it down and give the money back to shareholders.”
Lucky for Apple shareholders that Jobs and not Dell (DELL) was at Apple’s helm. Under Steve, Apple’s market capitalization went from $3 billion at the start of 1997 to $350 billion at the time of his death in October 2011 – more than the valuation of Microsoft and Dell combined – making it the second most valuable company in the world. A single share, worth a little over $4 the day Michael Dell spoke, rose to nearly 100 times that at the time of Jobs’ death. So, clearly, Steve did phenomenally well for people who believed in Apple stock and held on.
Rodney Sacks – the only CEO who delivered a bigger stock price jump than Jobs during his fabled tenure as CEO of Apple
But there’s still one CEO that isn’t getting a movie despite being an even bigger hero in the eyes of investors. Part of the reason, of course, is coz he’s still alive and firmly at the helm of his company… and he is Rodney Sacks, head of energy drink maker Monster Beverage (MNST) – the only CEO of a company currently in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index who has delivered a bigger stock price jump than Apple stock during Jobs’ fabled tenure as CEO of Apple, according to a report by Matt Krantz of USA TODAY based on an analysis that only includes CEOs that served the entire period that Jobs was CEO.
Monster Beverage’s Share Price Performance
Shares of Monster surged 40,097% between Sept. 16, 1997 when Jobs was named interim CEO through Jobs’ resignation on Aug. 24, 2011. That stock price increase at Monster blows away the still impressive 6,759% increase for Apple stock during Jobs’ tenure.
That’s not to say no other current S&P 500 have topped Apple stock during the Jobs days. Single-cup brewing maker Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) and biotech Celgene (CELG) both topped the Jobs-led Apple gaining 25,437% and 6,881%, respectively. But both of those companies had more than one CEO during the Jobs years.
That’s what makes Sacks so unique, while he’s nowhere as well-known as Jobs. Sacks, 65, has been Chairman and CEO of Monster Beverage since November 1990 back when the company was called Hansen Natural. Before taking the CEO role, he was chief financial officer from November 1990 through July 1996, shortly after the company emerged from bankruptcy protection.
Few CEOs can tout being at the head of a company the entire time when a stock delivers such massive gains — which probably explains one reason Jobs attracted Hollywood’s attention. Take for instance Keurig Green Mountain, which outperformed Apple’s stock during Jobs’ run. During that time, though, the company had two CEOs. Founder Bob Stiller was CEO until 2007 when he was replaced by Lawrence Blanford. The company currently has another CEO, Brian Kelley. And at Celgene, Sol Barer became CEO in May 2006 but stepped down in June 2010, more than a year before Jobs gave up his CEO title to become chairman.
All this is perhaps ancient history for investors, who are probably more interested in whether Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, can regain the innovation that made Apple such a big winner during Jobs tenure.
As of yesterday, Apple shares closed at about $112, up about 11% over the last 12 months and up about 110% or so since Jobs passed away – well above the 74% gain on the tech-heavy Nasdaq – so things have gone pretty well for Apple shareholders over the past five years. But investors are worried that a slowdown in China could hurt Apple’s growth and wonder if routine upgrades to its smartphone will be enough to fuel growth. It’s hard to say what the future holds but Apple appears to be doing pretty well for now, and may well have a few more tricks up its sleeve – but one thing’s for sure, at least in my mind, Apple’s never going to have another CEO of the stature, aura, complexity and quirkiness as Steve Jobs… I think he was a rare force of nature and his personality likely had something to do with Apple shares becoming Wall Street darlings under his last stint as CEO, boosted and supported, of course, by tremendous products and fantastic sales and profit margins, with outrageous game changing high-price points for “phones” that never cost as much before the iPhone came to market.
But if Hollywood is looking for another stock-price hero, there’s a monster of an option in Rodney Sacks. But just to be clear, I am not recommending that listeners go out and buy Monster shares but am simply offering up a little comparison on past performance and highlighting a CEO that’s done wonders for his shareholders.