An open letter to Tim Cook - Don't listen to Carl

Investor Carl Icahn wants Apple to return more value to shareholders, and launch new products. Is Mr. Icahn's advice good for Apple?

Dear Tim,

As a small Apple shareholder with significantly less than Carl Icahn’s 53 million shares, I urge you to ignore Mr. Icahn. Just block him out. Pretend he’s not there. Carl who? You need to do this for the sake of Apple. Let me explain.

As Mr. Icahn wrote in his open letter dated Oct. 9, 2014, I also applaud you and the rest of Apple management, particularly in light of the recent product announcements. Unlike Mr. Icahn, though, I never had any doubt that you were the “ideal CEO” for the job; we already knew that, as did Mr. Jobs. And by “we” I mean all Apple-loving fans who want the company to continue innovating and designing insanely great products. “We” might be shareholders, too, but that’s because we believe in what you’re doing and have confidence, not because we want to strong-arm your company and second guess your choices. If Apple takes its product roadmap strategy from investors like Mr. Icahn, just how great will Apple continue to be?

I don’t think anyone would disagree that Mr. Icahn is an accomplished investor and a successful businessman. Heck, he’s probably an Excel ninja, slicing data and formulating this way to incredible profits each quarter. Good on him. I wish I had his business savvy. But what he doesn’t get is that sometimes you need to leave the creative technologists alone to do what they do best. Apple did not become a great company by listening to the whims of wealthy outsiders. Apple is great because it is 100% focused on the product and the experience. Apple knows that healthy profit margins are vital, but they are not the reason to exist. Apple thinks different. Apple is different.

As I mentioned, I have a small amount of Apple shares and it’s great that you have increased the size of buybacks, returning value to shareholders like me. Thanks Tim. But I’d rather you spent that money on kicking butt in the industry, making strategic acquisitions, buying up inventory from under the feet of competitors, and whatever else your team advises. Because they know better than outsiders what needs to be done.

I’m not even going to dive into Mr. Icahn’s new product suggestions. Apple-branded UltraHD TV? Sure, it would be cool, and I trust you have smart people at Apple HQ looking into it. I’d buy one. Any product manager worth their salt is going to have a financial rationale for a new product, and maybe Mr. Icahn’s projections are accurate and actually of interest to your team. But Apple fans and customers expect your new product rationale to be centred on amazing solutions to customer problems. I’m sure someone at Apple had a spreadsheet showing how “profitable” it would be to licence the Mac OS to create a clone market, but that turned out to be a pretty stupid idea. So, bring on the new TV product but do it for the right reasons.

Tim, you’re doing just fine as is. Ignore the hubbub from Mr. Icahn (or is it iCahn?), and just focus on doing what you do best. And say hi to Jony for me.


Dale Tournemille