Pundits accuse Apple of using Jobs’ liver transplant story to manipulate AAPL stock price

Sun, Jun 21, 2009

Analysis, News

Fresh off reports that Steve Jobs received a liver transplant a few months ago, Joe Wilcox wrote a piece trying to articulate why “Steve Jobs’ return is still vaporware.” In other words, Wilcox believes that the source for the Wall Street Journal’s scoop came from inside Apple (fair enough) as a means to manipulate Apple’s stock price because Steve Jobs will never return to Apple as a full-time CEO and Apple knows it (say what now?!)

Apple is once again up to its media manipulation tactics, or so I allege. Surely I can’t be the only person seeing just how transparent was yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Steve Jobs liver transplant story. The timing, on day of iPhone 3GS launch, helps protect Apple’s share price and deemphasize an important fact: Steve isn’t really coming back this month.

How does the news of Jobs’ liver transplant protect Apple’s share price?  The iPhone 3G S launch was extremely successful, and the device itself has received overwhelmingly positive reviews.  The stock price hardly needs protecting, and even if that were the case, a liver transplant “manipulation tactic” probably isn’t the best avenue to achieve that goal.

Once again, I challenge Yikari and Joann to dispute my assertion that their main source was from inside Apple and most likely someone in corporate communications. Of course, to protect their sources and source of future Apple leaks, the reporters can make no defense. But WSJ will get lots of page views and inbound links from the leaked story.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but why does it matter if Apple was the source of the story?  Also, it’s downright laughable that a site like the WSJ, which requires paid subscriptions in order to view articles in their entirety, would use this as a means to generate page views and inbound links.  Seriously.

First, there is the bombshell—the kind that sends a company’s stock free-falling: Steve Jobs had a liver transplant about two months ago. The information confirms, at last, that Apple’s CEO was way sicker than previously revealed.

Wilcox is already contradicting himself.  First he asserts that the story was purposefully sourced by Apple to protect its stock price, then claims just 2 paragraphs later that news of a CEO undergoing a liver transplant would typically send a company’s stock price into a free-fall.

The original WSJ article noted that Jobs’ return to Apple might be more of a gradual process, and that COO Tim Cook might remain on as acting CEO for a while longer until Jobs regains his full strength. Wilcox theorizes that this might simply be a set-up to ease us into accepting the fact that Jobs might never return as Apple’s 100% in-charge CEO.  I tend to disagree with that assessment, but it’s a valid argument.

But right after making sense for the first time, Wilcox goes right off the deep end.

Wilcox goes on to write that the release of the iPhone 3G S was pushed up a month to coincide with news of Jobs’ liver transplant.  The “logic” goes that Apple wanted to balance news of Jobs’ surgery with a high-profile phone release.

I say the iPhone 3GS distraction goes even further, with Apple using the launch to blunt the severity of really bad news: The CEO was sicker than revealed, he recently had major life-saving surgery and he really isn’t ready to return to his duties.

What a joke!  Apple is the last company on earth that would manipulate key launch dates on its product roadmap as a means to artificially keep its stock price afloat.  If anything, Apple has been criticized for not taking its investors into consideration vis a vis how they typically handle the dissemination of information regarding Jobs’ health.  The executives at Apple aren’t day-traders.  They’re not worried about day to day or week to week fluctuations in Apple’s stock price.

On the day when every blog or news organization is covering the iPhone 3GS launch, Apple drops the public company equivalent of an atomic bomb. Buzz about iPhone 3GS will obscure much of the fallout. Come Monday, Apple will release data on number of iPhones shipped, quite likely mixed iPhone 3G and GS numbers together, which will inflate overall sales figures.

Actually, news of Jobs’ procedure has had the opposite effect and has somewhat obscured coverage of the impressive new iPhone 3G S.  If the liver transplant story is as much of an atom bomb as Wilcox claims, then what makes him think that the iPhone 3G S would do anything to divert significant attention away from that?

I assert that this has all been carefully orchestrated by Apple to sugarcoat the very bad news about the CEO’s health and to diminish the medicine’s most bitter taste—that he’s not really returning to work later this month and may never again assume the duties of full-time chief executive.

Well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see what capacity Steve Jobs will assume when he returns to Apple.  I personally think he’ll eventually return as a full-time CEO, but might decide to lower his public profile a bit as it pertains to making keynotes on a regular basis at special Apple events.

Ultimately, mitigating bad news is about one thing: Protecting, some people might argue manipulating, Apple’s share price. As I write this, Apple’s stock price is up in after-hours trading to $139.83. Shareholders are giddy about iPhone 3GS. Apple’s strategy is working.

Oh yes, the evil masterminds at Apple have cunningly used the media to its advantage to manipulate Apple’s stock price.  And Apple’s stock price is up in after-hours trading?!  Wow!  The strategy is working brilliantly!  What happens to Wilcox’s theory when Apple’s stock price is down on Monday morning?  What kind of bullshit strategy would that have been — to artificially keep Apple’s stock price high for one day?  Maybe news of the iPhone 3G S is preventing Apple from trading down 5 points as opposed to 2.  Does Wilcox honestly think Apple cares about its short term stock price enough to engage in what Wilcox refers to as “market manipulation”?

Wilcox claims in his byline that he’s particularly knowledgeable about Apple.  After reading his most recent article, I respectfully disagree.

But I am asserting that today’s news about his imminent return is really vaporware.” I now do assert that he’s not returning as CEO, certainly not full time at the end of June and likely not full time ever. News of his return is even more vaporware now that it was two weeks ago.

I guess we’ll see who’s full of it (me or Wilcox) in just a few weeks.

Lastly, a few more reasons why Wilcox’s theories are BS.

For one thing, Apple has consistently maintained that Jobs will return to his position as Apple CEO at the end of June, so I’ll go ahead and take their word for it.  Second, with Jobs’ impending return to Apple now less than 10 days away, aren’t we bound to see stories about his health pop up more frequently than we did over the past few months?  That being the case, the timing of the WSJ story might not be as suspicious as Wilcox makes it out to be.  And lastly, seeing as how Jobs is only 2 months out from a liver transplant, who’s to say if Jobs will or won’t make a full 100% recovery?  It’s clearly too soon to make that prediction, so why would Apple pre-maturely conclude that Jobs won’t return as CEO, and subsequently source a news story to the WSJ to purposefully manipulate its stock price.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. terryj Says:

    Consider your source, this is from the wall street journal, the Fox News of unbiased commentary.

  2. Chris Says:

    If you followed Wilcox on his now defunct Microsoft Watch blog, or in his new self-published one, he is more often wrong about Apple than he is right.

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