The Path to Greatness for Two American Corporate Icons

On this day in economic and financial history...

It's said that the journey to a $1,000 share begins with a single IPO. Well, maybe nobody actually says that. But for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) , that goal may be attainable, more than three decades after its public offering on Dec. 12, 1980. That day, Apple earned one of the largest first-day market caps up to that point. Its $1.6 billion finish trounced the $200 million IPO valuation set by Comsat 15 years earlier. Apple raised $110 million on sales of 4.4 million shares -- about 7.4% of the 54.2 million shares then outstanding.

Apple's closing price of $28.75 made its founders quite wealthy: 25-year-old Steve Jobs wound up worth $217 million thanks to his 7.5 million shares, and Steve Wozniak's net worth ballooned to $115 million thanks to the 4 million shares he held. Jobs never reaped the rewards of these shares, though. He sold all but one of his Apple shares in 1985. Had he held them for the next 25 years, through three two-for-one stock splits, his net worth would have been north of $19 billion in 2010 -- not counting his later Pixar windfall.

Apple's 1980 fiscal year, which ended in September, resulted in $118 million in revenue and $11.7 million in profit. Let's take a look at how much Apple has grown since its IPO:

Year

Market Cap

Revenue*

Net Income*

Change Since IPO (market cap; revenue; profit)

1980

$1.6 billion

$118 million

$11.7 million

N/A

1985

$1.2 billion

$1.8 billion

$72 million

(25%); 1,425%; 515%

1990

$4.6 billion

$5.7 billion

$500.6 million

188%; 4,731%; 4,179%

1995

$4.7 billion

$11.4 billion

$167 million

194%; 9,561%; 1,327%

2000

$5.2 billion

$6.6 billion

$408 million

225%; 5,493%; 3,387%

2005

$63.1 billion

$16.2 billion

$1.6 billion

3,844%; 13,629%; 13,575%

2010

$294.1 billion

$76.3 billion

$16.6 billion

18,281%; 64,561%; 141,780%

Source: Wolfram Alpha. *Revenue and net income calculated on a calendar-year basis by Wolfram Alpha.

Apple shareholders didn't miss out on much for the first two decades of Apple's public life. In the same time it took the company to grow from a $1.6 billion market cap to a $5.2 billion market cap, rival Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) grew from essentially zero (it didn't IPO until 1986) to a worth of $311 billion, even after a steep drop from a maximum valuation of more than $600 billion at the end of 1999.

Dedicated Apple shareholders had the last laugh, though. From 2000 to 2010, Microsoft's market cap shrank by 25%, while Apple's grew by more than 5,500%.

Apple's past two years have been even more impressive, but its recent stock slide has millions of investors worried that the good times may be over. Can Apple recover to new heights, or is this swoon the start of a "new normal"? Learn more about the future of Apple, and what it means to your portfolio, in our premium research report. Click here to subscribe today for the information you need.

The Dow's strangest day
What would you do on the first day that stock markets reopened after a multi-month shutdown? Would you cheer and get right back into trading? Or would you panic and sell off many of your holdings? Strangely, both results have been recorded as occurring on Dec. 12, 1914, the first day stocks were traded since the end of that July.

"The market was strong throughout the forenoon and showed pronounced strength at closing," wrote The New York Times on the day the exchanges reopened, "with most of the leading issues selling from one to eight points up in the day's transactions."

Yet contemporary reports occasionally present a different perspective. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , these reports claim, dropped by more than 24%, a truly mind-boggling loss that would surpass 1987's Black Monday as the worst one-day decline in history. This drop is recorded in places as diverse as the history.com website for Dec. 12 and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' FRED economic databank, one of the few sites on which pre-1929 daily Dow closing values are available. But how can this be? After all, when trading reopened on Dec. 12, the mood was jovial -- the Times records "a big man standing in the gallery" who responded to the opening gong in the New York Stock Exchange (UNKNOWN: NYX.DL  ) by calling out "all aboard for prosperity!"

The Dow, in fact, advanced strongly on Dec. 12, 1914, from its July 30 closing value of 71.42 to 74.56. What happened to create the 24% drop was a simple recalculation. The 12-stock index grew two years later to 20 stocks, and the Dow's overseers decided to revise the enlarged index backwards through time to account for where it would have stood in earlier trading days as a 20-stock index. For whatever reason, this recalculation stopped on Dec. 12, leaving the 12-stock Dow's value intact before the market shutdown but recording a drop than never actually happened for its reopening day. Subsequent recalculations continue to stop on Dec. 12, 1914, which makes that day the unofficial starting point of the modern Dow.

Look for the golden arches
The first McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) opened in 1940, but you wouldn't recognize it as one today. "McDonald's Famous Barbecue," run by brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald, was really just a drive-in barbecue joint -- complete with carhops -- that offered more than 40 various barbecued items. By 1948 the brothers recognized that hamburgers were their real moneymaker, and the barbecue joint shut down for retooling.

Retooling complete, the first "McDonald's" restaurant opened on Dec 12, 1948. The greatly streamlined menu had been pared down to focus on the iconic foodstuff Mickey D's is still recognized for today: hamburgers, French fries, milkshakes, and apple pies. Customers now bought food directly from cashiers, and the kitchen ran like an assembly line to ensure rapid order completion.

Those milkshakes eventually brought McDonald's to the attention of Ray Kroc, who sold milkshake machines to McDonald's first restaurant. He became McDonald's first franchisee and eventually bought out the company in 1961. The McDonald's fast-food formula, although pioneered by the White Castle burger chain years earlier, went on to transform the relationship between Americans and their food.

Today, McDonald's sells more than 75 hamburgers every second at more than 34,000 restaurants in 119 countries around the world. About 68 million people eat McDonald's every day, and they're served by a total of 761,000 McDonald's employees. A little efficiency can go a long way.

McDonald's is a truly global phenomenon, but will it reclaim its position as one of the Dow's best stocks in 2013? Food price inflation and upscale burger competition threaten to undermine Mickey D's growth, but this isn't the company's first rodeo. If you're curious about what lies in store for McDonald's next year (and beyond), the Fool's premium research service can offer the answers you seek. Just click here to start your subscription today.


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