Capitalism the Apple Way vs. Capitalism the Google Way
But the greatest collision between Apple and Google is little noticed. The companies have taken completely different approaches to their shareholders and to the future, one willing to accede to the demands of investors and the other keeping power in the hands of founders and executives. These rival approaches are about something much bigger than just two of the most important companies in the world; they embody two alternative models of capitalism, and the one that wins out will shape the future of the economy.
But there was another reason Apple wouldn’t so readily part with this cash: The majority of it was in Ireland because of the company’s fortuitous creation of Apple Operations International in Ireland in 1980. Since then, the vast majority of Apple’s non-U.S. profits had found their way to the country, and tapping into that cash would mean incurring significant U.S. taxes due upon repatriation to American soil. So Sacconaghi floated a bold idea: Apple should borrow the $100 billion in the U.S., and then pay it out to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks. The unusual nature of the proposal attracted attention among financiers and served Sacconaghi’s presumed purpose, ratcheting up the pressure on Cook. A week later, Apple relented and announced plans to begin releasing cash via dividends.
The results of Sacconaghi’s report were not lost on Silicon Valley, and Google responded three weeks later. At the time, the share structure that the company put in place when it went public in 2004 was becoming fragile. This original arrangement allowed Google’s founders to maintain voting control over the company, even as their share of ownership shrunk as more shares were issued. The explicit premise was that this structure would “protect Google from outside pressures and the temptation to sacrifice future opportunities to meet short-term demands.”