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Our First Nominee for CEO of the Year: Tim Cook

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My praise and contempt for CEO actions is pretty well known around these parts. I've been running a weekly series looking at CEO gaffes for nearly nine months now (with seemingly endless material, may I add), and recently I've begun highlighting incredible CEOs who deserve a pat on the back. Last year I even listed my top 10 CEOs of the year and my 10 worst CEOs of the year.

However, this year we're changing things up a bit, and we're putting the ball in your court! This year The Motley Fool community is going to decide who the best CEO of the year is, and which CEO should be banished to a distant island.

Each week, over the next eight weeks, I'm going to highlight one CEO who's worthy of being the best CEO of 2012, as well as a CEO who could easily be called the worst of 2012. In total, you and your community members will have eight great CEOs and eight terrible ones to choose from when voting commences in November.

In the meantime, I encourage you to get the discussion started on the CEO of the Week board. Although I do have all CEOs hand-picked already, these selections are by no means set in stone. If you can offer me your top picks for best and worst CEO, as well as your reasoning, you may just find your nomination in the spotlight.

Without further ado, I give you the first nominee for CEO of the Year: Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Tim Cook.

Why Tim Cook?

  • Instituting a dividend: The late, great, Steve Jobs insisted for years that Apple had no intention of paying a quarterly dividend. Tim Cook changed that earlier this year when he instituted a $2.65 quarterly stipend that will be easily covered by the nearly $8.8 billion in profit Apple booked last quarter. Between its payout ratio that's just 24% of 2012 forecast earnings and its $100-billion-plus cash pile, Apple is well positioned to keep delivering for shareholders.
  • Expanding the "Apple economy": Apple's performance has been undeniably strong. Preorders of Apple's iPhone 5 have hit a record 2 million units within the first 24 hours, doubling the preorders of the iPhone 4S (and count me among those 2 million). In addition to selling 61.1 million iPhones in just the past two quarters, Apple's supply chain has created a trickle-down effect that's creating jobs globally and driving innovation. Nuance Communications' (Nasdaq: NUAN  ) speech-recognition software (a.k.a. Siri), Cirrus Logic's (Nasdaq: CRUS  ) echo-cancelling audio chips, and Broadcom's (Nasdaq: BRCM  ) Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity chips have needed constant refining and improvements, all of which has been driven by the strength in sales of the iPhone. In short, Apple's creating its own economy, and numerous companies, including these three, are riding Apple's coattails.
  • Leading by example: Since being granted one of the most generous stock-option packages when he became CEO, Cook is hardly hurting for cash if he needs it. However, earlier this year Cook did file paperwork with the SEC saying that he'd be forgoing entitled dividends on shares waiting to be vested, which would have amounted to $75 million. By tying his performance to that of Apple's stock, he's shown shareholders that their interests are his interests.
  • Blowing the competition away: Apple has singlehandedly sent Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) BlackBerry into hibernation. If the release of RIM's new BlackBerry 10 OS doesn't win over enterprise customers with glowing reviews, it could bite the dust. Even Google, whose Android OS dominates the smartphone market, has trouble competing with the market share generated from the annual release of a next-generation iPhone.
  • Generating results -- scoreboard, baby: When it comes down to it, it's Apple's results that are really the show-stopper. Not only has Cook picked up right where Jobs left off, but he's also driven Apple to be the most valuable company in the world, period. You might suspect that would place Apple's forward P/E out of whack with its peers or the market in general, but it's still trading below the average P/E of the S&P 500, even with a market value of $655 billion. Apple shares have risen 73.5% year to date!

Is Tim Cook the CEO of the year? That's going to be up to you and the rest of The Motley Fool community to decide. In the meantime, come back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next eight weeks for the latest CEO nominations, and be sure to hit up the CEO of the Week board to voice your opinion to the community.

Curious if the iPhone 5 can really boost Apple to a valuation of $1 trillion? Find out the answer to this question and much more by getting your copy of our latest premium research report on Apple. Packed with in-depth and unbiased analysis, this report details the opportunities and threats Apple will face over the long term and comes complete with a full year of updates. Click here to aim your investing edge now.

Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He loves giving credit when credit is due. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Cirrus Logic, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Nuance Communications, and Google, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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