Tim Cook vs. Steve Ballmer

Tim Cook vs. Steve Ballmer

As Apple prepares to file its March-quarter earnings report on Tuesday afternoon after the bell, the company finds itself in a position it hasn’t been in for quite some time. Apple shares have lost more than 40% of their value since hitting a record high in late September and a growing mob of Apple bears is beginning to question whether or not the company should seek a replacement for CEO Tim Cook. Bulls immediately dismiss the idea as lunacy — it does seem pretty crazy, considering Apple’s revenue and profit are still growing despite soured investor sentiment — but The New York Times took a step back on Tuesday to draw some interesting parallels between Tim Cook and another CEO who is no stranger to angry mobs brandishing pitch forks: Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.

The same Apple pundits who immediately dismiss rumblings about ousting Cook  have been very critical of Ballmer over the years. To be fair, it’s not hard to be critical of a CEO who has seen Microsoft shares lose 43% of their value since his tenure began in 2000. But as The New York Times’ Nick Wingfield points out, calling for Ballmer’s head may be just as absurd — or warranted, depending on your position — as calling for Cook’s.

In the 13 years since Ballmer took over as Microsoft’s CEO, Wingfield points out that the company’s annual revenue has ballooned 221% to $73.72 billion. Microsoft’s annual profit has grown 80% to $16.98 billion over the same period of time. Compare that to Tim Cook: Since Cook took over as chief executive almost two years ago, Apple’s annual revenue is up 45% to $156.51 billion and profit has grown 61% to $41.73 billion.

Wingfield notes that as the case has been for Microsoft, it’s possible that Cook will continue to see pressure even if Apple’s solid revenue and profit growth continue — Ballmer’s time at Microsoft has clearly shown us that soured sentiment can be quite difficult to reverse.

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