Apple tax query becomes Cook’s latest crisis-management test

Einhorn, China

“Investors are struggling to see what’s next, and you didn’t have that problem with Steve Jobs,” said David Walker, a technology analyst at Trillium Asset Management, which has about $1.3 billion under management, including Apple shares.

Jobs also faced crises, including the investigation of Apple by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Justice Department over backdating stock-option grants for executives. That probe and the controversy surrounding the disclosure of his health issues were more drawn out than the crises Cook is currently facing.

In 2010, Jobs cut short a family vacation in Hawaii to take the unusual step of hosting a press conference to explain connectivity issues related to the iPhone 4 antenna after the smartphone was criticized by Consumer Reports magazine.

Easy Target

Cook had been handling several unforeseen incidents even before taxes took center stage. He was forced to respond after hedge-fund manager David Einhorn sued the company as a way to pressure it to return some of its cash to shareholders. Cook issued a public apology after Chinese regulators criticized the company’s warranty policies, and he oversaw a management shakeup last year that included firing senior executives Scott Forstall, who oversaw the company’s mobile software, and retail head John Browett.

Then there was the botched introduction of the company’s mapping software -- another episode that elicited a public apology from Cook.

Apple makes for an easy target because it’s big and popular. Apple was for a time the world’s most valuable company, surpassing Exxon Mobil Corp. Apple’s iPhone and iPad are among the best-selling products in their respective categories.

Focusing on Apple can attract greater attention to an arcane issue, such as tax reform, said Santa Clara’s Diamond. Apple was singled out in Congress for practices used by many companies, he said.

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