It's always a good sign when a business' leaders choose not to sell any shares they own. While there may be possible ulterior motives, it's very difficult to argue that they are not aligned with shareholders. When an executive buys or holds shares, it means he has a personal stake in building shareholder value and that he believes shares will appreciate in the future. After choosing not to sell his recently awarded stock, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook is one such leader.
Cook and Cue bet on Apple stock
Cook, along with Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet, software, and services, each received 560,000 and 350,000 restricted stock units, respectively, this week. Together, these shares are worth about close to $100 million. The shares were awarded to them in conjunction with a performance-based compensation plan.
While a large portion of these shares were withheld by Apple to comply with statutory tax withholding requirements, the two executives were still left with a good chunk of Apple stock. Cook's shares after Apple's withholdings are worth about $30 million and Cue's are worth about $20 million.
Neither of the executives sold a single share.
Opting to hold these stocks suggests the executives are bullish on the company's future, particularly the stock. And it shows that Cook is putting his money where his mouth is, as the company has strongly emphasized share repurchases over dividends in its capital return program. Indeed, Apple announced earlier this year that it was boosting its capital return program by $70 billion, and management said it would be allocating the majority of this toward share repurchases due to the value the board sees in the stock.
Famed investor Warren Buffett is a major advocate of insider ownership. As Buffett says in the Berkshire Hathaway owner's manual, "We eat our own cooking."
After Cook's latest Apple stock award, he now owns about 1.17 million shares, worth about $129 million. Nearly all of Cook's net worth is tied to Apple stock, according to Fortune.
Holding is a no-brainer
Trading at just 13 times earnings when the S&P 500 has a price-to-earnings multiple of 22, it shouldn't be a surprise Cook is holding on to his shares. The stock is cheap by just about any measure.
Investors may be wise to follow suit. While Apple stock has rebounded from pulling back to $95 on Monday, it's still trading well below a 52-week high of $135 achieved earlier this year. Sure, $95 would have been a better deal than $112, but Apple stock is still looking like a genuine bargain for long-term buy-and-hold investors.
Combining Cook's and Cue's bullishness on Apple stock, the company's aggressive share repurchase program, and an obviously cheap stock, shares are looking incredibly tasty at the moment.