Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Investor Reaction to CEO Tim Cook’s Dramatic Management Upheaval at Apple Will Be Delayed by Sandy

Some news cannot wait, of course, and sources at Apple said the company had planned to release news of the sudden exit of Scott Forstall, one of its major execs, this afternoon.

Maybe so, but it’s also unusual timing. Due to Hurricane Sandy — which was poised to hit landfall in central New Jersey just as Apple made its announcement about the iOS mobile software chief’s leaving, along with that of Apple Store retail head John Browett — Wall Street reaction to what appears to be a major management move by CEO Tim Cook will not take place until at least Wednesday.

That’s because the massive storm has led to the closure of the stock markets today and tomorrow, leaving investors to mull on the major reorganization without a lot of ability to react.

Apple shares closed at $604 on Friday, up about 49 percent over the past year. Its stock had declined slightly recently, after last week’s quarterly earnings did not meet the enormous profit expectations of Wall Street. Still, Apple had — for anyone else — a blockbuster fourth quarter.

The tech leader reported $8.67 per share of profit on sales of $35.97 billion.

How the departure of Forstall and, to a much lesser extent, Browett (who has been a largely unpopular exec since he was hired a year ago), will be greeted by shareholders when markets open should be interesting.

On one hand, Forstall has been a major exec at the company for a very long time, in charge of key areas of success for Apple, including the software for its hugely popular iPhone and iPad. Forstall has even been called CEO-in-waiting in some media accounts.

That said, many sources report that he has wrangled with other top execs, including Cook, and he has been known as someone with a doesn’t-play-well-with-others personality. One source told me today that Forstall had made numerous “open challenges” to the Apple leader over the last year.

While that’s not necessarily a negative at Apple — the late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs was also someone who did not suffer fools or even simple mistakes among trusted staff — the recent troubles as it replaced Google’s mapping software with its own had clearly tarnished Forstall’s image.

In addition, while Apple does great at hardware, as well hardware/software integration, it has often fallen down in other key software efforts, such as MobileMe, iTunes and more.

This is not all Forstall’s fault, of course, but his sudden departure — which will take place officially next year — means that Cook is consolidating control over the top management.

Thus, the did-he-jump-or-was-he-pushed meme will doubtlessly increase over the next few days. Pushed seems to be the consensus so far.

But here’s a little insight into Apple’s often opaque culture to better discern management Kremlinology there: iTunes is still advertising competitors’ maps instead of its own failed product, and Forstall got no stage time at Apple iPad mini event last week.

Clearly, the removal of Browett, who had made a series of moves that were negatively greeted by Apple’s retail unit, will make Cook look decisive, especially since he had hired him. But whether that extends to how the influential Forstall was dispatched — and it looks like he was — will be another story to grok for Wall Street.


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