It's that time of the year again, folks! It's time to dust off the cyber awards and crown five CEOs with the dubious honor of being the worst of the worst in 2013.
Unlike last year, when we held several rounds of public voting after I picked eight of the best and worst CEOs, I wanted to do something different this year. So instead of picking who I thought should be in each category for 2013, I reached out to as many of my Motley Fool colleagues as possible and aggregated their answers into one list. The result is a considerably more balanced list representing a wider swath of views and likely a more accurate portrayal of the worst CEOs of the year than I could have come up with by myself.
Over the past two weeks, we've unveiled the No. 5 worst CEO of the year, the now-former CEO of BlackBerry, Thorsten Heins, as well as the No. 4 worst CEO of the year, Aubrey McClendon, who is the now-former CEO of Chesapeake Energy.
Today, we're dipping our nose back into the tech sector and collectively anointing Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tim Cook as our third-worst CEO of the year.
Why Tim Cook?
I can guess what you might be thinking. Blasphemy! And to some extent, I'd agree because arguably no technology company has done more for the advancement of high-tech mobile devices or brought consumers and businesses closer than Apple. It was its iPod and iPhone that revolutionized portable music and brought smartphones into our everyday lives.
But Apple had one key component leading that charge that it, unfortunately, lost in October 2011 far too early to pancreatic cancer, Steve Jobs. Replacing Jobs was Cook, who walked into a monstrous pay package -- in his defense, he has forgone dividend payments totaling $75 million on restricted stock unit that will vest over the next decade -- but hasn't delivered to shareholders' satisfaction since taking the helm.
As my Foolish colleague Jeremy Bowman perfectly put it,
Apple shares may have bounced back, but the company has lost its magic. The problem with Cook is he's not an idea man -- he's a finance and operations guy. He doesn't invent, [he] just moves money around. All of Apple's recent initiatives have been pure harvesting -- the iPad Mini, the bond sale, the [iPhone] 5c. Why isn't that massive cash pile driving R&D? He is killing the brand.
Apple's greatest flaw and the legacy that Cook will be known for (at least thus far in his tenure) is in transitioning Apple from a growth to a value company complacent to sit on its laurels and allow dividends and share buybacks to drive modest growth instead of investing in the next-generation device that's going to change the world. Fool Dan Dzombak also hit on this point by pointing to Cook as one of the most overhyped CEOs of the year, adding to Jeremy's point that Cook is more about operational control than actual idea generation.
The really sad part is that Apple is starting to get beaten at its own game by Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL). The partnership between Samsung's smartphones, led by its Galaxy series, and Google's Android operating system is dominating the global market with Strategy Analytics showing that Samsung controlled 28.7% of global mobile phone vendor market share as of the third quarter. This figure was up 230 basis points from the year-ago period and absolutely overshadows the next-closest mobile phone maker, Nokia, which sits at just 15.5% global market share, having lost 570 basis points from the year prior. By comparison, Apple was able to grow its global market share by 120 basis points in the third quarter, but still controls just 8.1% of the total global market.
But it isn't just with smartphones that Apple is seeing sales stymie a bit. The latest JD Power & Associates satisfaction survey, released at the end of last month, showed that Samsung tablets, which are powered by Google's Android OS, edged out Apple for the first time ever. According to TechCrunch, perceived fairness of price paid by consumers was the big reason for Samsung's leap, signaling the possibility that consumers are growing weary of Apple's technology premium with few new innovations on the horizon.
Finally, the proof has been in the pudding with Apple's profits falling in three consecutive quarters on a year-over-year comparison. This isn't to say that Apple isn't raking in large sums of free cash flow, but its glory days of being a growth stock are looking like a distant memory with Tim Cook at the helm.
Stay tuned as we unveil our second-worst CEO and our second-best CEO of the year next week.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. 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.
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