Tim Cook Shouldn't Let Carl Icahn Treat Him Like This

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.

Icahn doesn't understand Apple because, like Einhorn, he separates Apple's social and cultural contexts from his view that the company should execute the type of capital allocation strategy every other company uses or would use if in or close to Apple's position.

Apple has beat to its own drum ever since Steve Jobs set things right shortly after his return to the company. It's that stubborn uniqueness that, I think most people would agree, has helped put Apple in the position it's in today. To halt this extraordinary flow because you perceive yourself as having made corporate history makes no sense. In fact, it risks eroding the very sociocultural contexts that brought Apple to an otherworldly level to begin with.

That's difficult for MBAs, finance geeks and guys like Icahn and Einhorn to understand because, simply put, it's either not in their intellectual wheelhouse or, in this case, they're acting in their own self-interest. The long-term success or failure of Apple -- I'm talking five, 10 years out -- means little, if anything, to these guys. They're here to make as much money as they can here and now. That's their goal.

Icahn admonishing Wapner for trying to get him to make a threat on television provides a peak into his true colors, into the way we know he would act and mostly likely has acted -- maybe even with Cook -- in private.

The bully tag applies, namely to Icahn, because there's no way in the world he would be pulling this crap if Steve Jobs was alive and/or still in charge at Apple. He's taking advantage of the situation Einhorn set up for him (though I am not saying they officially cooperated) and Tim Cook's weakness as a CEO. He's a nice guy. He doesn't have the moxie of a Steve Jobs or Howard Schultz to say If you don't like what we're doing, go buy another stock but just leave us the hell alone.

Jobs never would have let it get to this. Icahn probably never would have broached the subject with him in the first place. Because he knows full well an aggressive move toward Jobs would have gone nowhere. It would have ended badly and prematurely.

But, as David Einhorn proved, that's not how Apple rolls under Tim Cook. In certain situations, outside forces exert control over Apple and dictate the decisions the company makes. Bullish, bearish, a fan of Apple's moves with the 5s and 5c or not, this simply shouldn't sit well with you if you want to see this company remain not only great, but dominant and distinct. Carl Icahn offers absolutely nothing to ensure that this happens; in fact, his interference could end up contributing to the opposite outcome.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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