September 16, 2010, 11:54 AM — Twenty months into her tenure as Yahoo's CEO, the refreshingly blunt Carol Bartz sat down with the Wall Street Journal to make her case that turnarounds take time, and that's what she needs more of in the face of pressure to increase the Internet pioneer's stock price and improve its competitive footing in an ever-changing online landscape.
"You don't come in and do fairy dust. You upgrade technology, you see what drives engagement," she told the WSJ.
Bartz is 100 percent correct, of course. Fairy dust being in relatively short supply these days, companies competing in the digital landscape need to figure out what their customers want and how to deliver it in a way that generates profits and, hopefully, increases the company's share price. That's no easy task during a recession and in an environment where advertisers are tight with their dollars.
But in making her case, Bartz misstated a bit of history. According to WSJ, Bartz said that "Apple's stock-market capitalization was 'dead ass flat' for a number of years after Steve Jobs returned in 1997."
I was curious about Bartz's colorful assertion and, being into metrics, charts and such, decided to look into it. I discovered two things:
1) It was exactly 13 years ago today that Jobs became "interim CEO" of Apple following the disastrous tenure of Gil Amelio. Happy anniversary, Steve.
2) Bartz was "dead ass wrong" about Apple's market fortunes in the wake of Jobs's return.
Perhaps ironically, I found Apple's historical stock data in Yahoo's excellent finance section. You can view the chart here, but below are some relevant stock prices from that long-ago era.
September 1997: $5.42
December 1997: $3.28
February 1998: $5.90
September 1998: $9.53
May 1999: $11.01
That last price, by the way, was 20 months after Jobs's reinstatement as Apple CEO. Shares climbed as high as $33.95 in March 2000. Then the Internet Gold Rush came to an abrupt halt, and Apple's stock price plummeted along with virtually every other tech company's, falling as low as $7.11 in April 2003. Since then it's been on a remarkable run, even given the economic nosedive that began in 2008.