Aug 29, 2011

The Golden Handcuff: Why?

I didn’t want to do this, I really didn’t. I didn’t want to join the throngs of people indulging in maudlin self-promotion or baseless analysis over the announcement that Steve Jobs is transitioning from CEO to Chairman of the Board.

But something pinged me when I read about Tim Cook’s stay-on bonus. The whole scenario sounded familiar, as if I had written about it before. Oh wait, I did: Wanted: One Chief Executive Asshole.

Obviously I do not have the million shares required to be privy to the internal machinations of the Apple board, nor do I have the ego to think my desultory scribblings would attract any attention outside a close circle of friends (I actually started blogging at the suggestion of a career coach and stopped soon after starting a new job) — but I do believe that analysis is still sound.

I do believe Tim Cook is a money guy and a good one at that. I do believe he is pleasing to the short term institutional investors that make up the sizable majority of any public company. I do believe he will keep the cash flowing in — in the short term. I do not believe he is the visionary who will launch “the next big thing”. I do believe the Apple board knows this.

If you’ve just been given the top job in the most valuable technology company in the world — and soon to be the most valuable company period — why the Hell would you need an incentive to stay on? Answer: Because the people to whom you report are about to do something that will really piss you off. Like, say, give your new job to someone else and return you to your old position of COO. After all, the SEC filing simply says “...subject to Mr. Cook’s continued employment”, not continued employment as CEO.

I may be reading too much into this; it may all be wishful thinking. But my gut is screaming “iCEO” and my head is saying, “well, possibly…”

We will know soon enough.