In Memoriam: Steve Jobs in the filings…

October 6, 2011

Here at footnoted world headquarters (not to mention our various satellite offices), we’re deep-in when it comes to Apple (AAPL) products and longtime fans of Steve Jobs. Our very first post (back in 2003) was about Apple and we’re typing this post on a MacBookPro while looking at a 27″ Apple monitor (and using a wireless Apple mouse and keyboard).

So when news broke last night that Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs had died, we decided to scrap the post we had been planning to write for today and dig through old SEC filings for mentions of Jobs and the role that he played at both Apple, and at other companies that he touched.

We started with Apple’s preliminary private offering, which, while not available via Edgar, was located (via our friend, Zack Miller) from the Computer History Museum. One of the things that surprised us — given how much Jobs is associated with the company — is that his name was only mentioned once in the 50-plus page document. We particularly liked some of the risk factors in that filing:

Operating History: Apple Computer Inc. is a new company which has not established a long history of operation upon which to base opinions of accuracy of forecasts, financial projections or operations efficiency.
Manufacturing: Apple has experienced extreme difficulty in obtaining its custom injection molded cases. There is no assurance that this problem will be solved through establishing additional sources of supply.
Cash Flow vs Rapid Growth: Apple management expects that rapid growth and potential market fluctuations may present severe cash flow management difficulties.
Management: Apple Computers’ Management team is young and relatively in-experienced in the high volume consumer electronics business.
The same museum also had a copy of the preliminary business plan from 1981, which struck us as a bit different, given that Apple went public in 1980. (You could have bought a copy of the original prospectus on Ebay earlier this week for $376. We’re guessing that the price would be a lot higher now).

Over the years, Jobs’ name was featured a lot more prominently in Apple’s filings, including this one which announced his return to Apple as a special advisor in July 1997 and this one from Sept. 1997 which announced his appointment as interim CEO. One filing we couldn’t find was the one where Jobs went from being interim CEO to CEO. Apple, which is known for playing things close to the vest, only filed two 8-Ks in all of 1998.

But what we really found interesting was the way other companies talked about Apple in their filings. There was this prospectus from the Gamco Growth Fund in 1999 that mentioned Jobs and two other prominent (but in our mind considerably less visionary) CEOs in the same breath:

Finally, Apple is back. With the return of Steve Jobs, Apple launched the iMAC personal computer and it quickly became the best selling PC in the market. It is difficult for an analyst to quantify the value of a Lou Gerstner, Michael Armstrong or Steve Jobs, but they are clearly valuable assets and special people.

Not everyone is a Jobs fan, of course. Back in 1996, Jerome Dodson, president of Parnassus Investments, complained in a filing for its Parnassus Fund that “the biggest problem” at Apple has been its management, “which for the course of its history has ranged from the mediocre (John Sculley and Mike Markkula) to the dreadful (Steven Jobs and Michael Spindler).” In a later filing, in 1997, Dodson devoted 500 words to explaining “Why I Soured on Apple” after selling the fund’s entire stake at a 50% loss — highlights include its decision to buy Jobs’ company, NeXT Computing, the move that brought him back to Apple — and concluded that “Most likely, a much smaller Apple will become a niche player.” According to our friends at InsiderScore.com, its technology-heavy funds still don’t hold any AAPL shares.

Here at footnoted, we like to think differently, just as Steve Jobs encouraged people to do all those years ago with this iconic television ad. In the end, that’s the best tribute we can offer.

Image source: Apple

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.