Monday, April 16, 2007, 05:00 pm PT (08:00 pm ET)
Briefly: Apple option grant feud, Fortune 500 jump, Apple II turns 30Shareholders began a minor revolt on Monday, contending that Apple Inc. should change its stock grants while the company refused to budge. However, Apple consoled itself with soaring Fortune 500 rankings and the 30th anniversary of its first truly mainstream computer.
Stakeholders push for stock option overhaul
Apple today posted its yearly SEC proxy statement, offering one of the few glimpses the outside world can have of the Mac maker's financial politics.
Among the disclosures is news of struggle between Apple and two of its larger investor groups. Both the Hartford-based Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds as well as New York state's Amalgamated Bank LongView Collective have been revealed as pressuring Apple for more honesty in the way it grants stock options to employees.
The investment partnerships were particularly interested in preventing the same backdating scandals that forced the company to amend its options in the past. In a proposal uncovered by the proxy, the shareholders have asked Apple to disclose any grant dates a year ahead of time and to set the stock value to the average selling price of shares for the day of the grant — preventing cherry-picked results and potential insider trading issues.
Apple was characteristically resistant to the idea. The California firm dismissed the proposal as part of its proxy statement: the suggestions weren't relevant to its updated compensation methods, Apple said. The company was keen to note that executives haven't received stock options in four years and were instead given tightly controlled grants without a set price.
Arguments from either side are expected to be put to rest soon through the annual shareholder's meeting, which is due May 10th at Apple's Cupertino campus. The meeting will also let investors have their say in voting for Apple's board of directors.
Jobs receives $1 salary another year
Also part of the proxy statement was confirmation that company CEO Steve Jobs has yet again received his official $1 salary for his work in 2006.
The executive began the tradition shortly after his return to Apple, done in part as a gesture to show that his resumption of control was a display of affection for the company motivated by more than money.
Jobs' salary is not his only source of revenue, as it includes stock benefits as well as various benefits, which have involved a private jet and similar perks.
Apple climbs the Fortune 500 charts
In happier news for the electronics giant, its financial influence was solidified on Monday through an update to the famed Fortune 500 list.
Apple is now ranked at number 121 through a spike in its revenue to $19.3 billion over the course of 2006 — lifting the company 38 spots and passing some of its best-known influencers and partners, including Nike and Xerox.
The company's status was polished further when considering only computer sales. The Mac producer was ranked fourth in the Computers and Office Equipment category, placing it behind only industry monoliths HP ($91.7 m), IBM ($91.4), and Dell ($57.1 m).
Apple II celebrates 30th birthday
Another reason to celebrate was a historic occasion: Monday the 16th represented the 30th anniversary of the Apple II's first public appearance at the legendary West Coast Computer Faire. The computer began selling June 5th that year and went on to become Apple's most long-lived computer ever, only seeing its end in October 1993.
The 1MHz computer was equally well-known for its accessibility as one of the first to be designed more as a consumer product than a hobbyist's tool: the smooth beige casing hid many of the components that would normally remain open and was backed by a user manual written for comparatively average users rather than experts already familiar with BASIC and other programming languages.
Significantly, the chief motivator behind the aesthetic design — co-founder Steve Jobs — is still on-hand as CEO to mark the birthday despite being absent for eight of the thirteen years one of his cornerstone products could be found in the marketplace.
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