NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In several recent articles I expressed Apple (AAPL) and Tim Cook-related bullishness. While the man -- and moreso the company Steve Jobs left behind -- deserves credit where due, there's still something about Cook that rubs me the wrong way.
It's best exemplified in the dog and pony show that took place between Apple and David Einhorn and the one occurring now between Cook and Carl Icahn. The spectacle Cook allows to play out in the public sphere brings back concerns I raised this past February in What David Einhorn Is Doing Foreshadows the Beginning of the End at Apple.
If you haven't seen Scott Wapner's Tuesday afternoon interview with Icahn on CNBC, here it is. Wapner's a pro. I'm not sure how his consistent smirk doesn't turn, quite frequently, into an outright laugh. And I'm not sure how anybody can walk away from Icahn's performance without thinking what an egomaniacal, out-of-line bully.
Icahn pulled off what most sane humans call a veiled threat. And, based on what he told Wapner, it's clear he did the same during his dinner hour with Cook. It's all so annoyingly toxic I'm not sure where to begin. Icahn claims he's not going to tell Tim Cook how to run Apple from a product standpoint. He won't give advice on matters such as China. However, because of his track record, he feels he's within in his rights and wits to provide strong words with respect to Apple's capital allocation strategy. Lots of people can claim expertise -- with a track record to back it up -- on myriad issues. That doesn't give them the right, no matter the size of their investment (or ego), to dictate the terms of a complicated issue they're inclined to simplify. We've been through this already when the issue of an Apple dividend and buyback wasn't even decided. If you use an MBA textbook, cats such as Icahn are correct. There's no reason in the world not to return cash in the first place or step up the magnitude of that program now. But that leaves the harder-to-quantify intangibles out of the equation.
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