While a small group of protesters marched outside Apple’s shareholders meeting this morning over labor practices in China, investors inside were mostly saying thank you. And with good reason.
Take Rich Bleyle, a retired teacher attending the annual meeting from Buffalo, New York. He and his wife Mary spent $16,000 on Apple shares in 1997, about the same time late co-founder Steve Jobs returned to the company. Today, the couple has about $2 million worth of Apple shares.
Rich, with a handlebar mustache and wearing a blue t-shirt that said “Macho Man,” said the couple sold only 200 shares since that initial investment and still owns another 3,800. Mary said she was impressed with Tim Cook, who hosted his first Apple shareholder meeting as CEO. “He seemed like a really nice fella – friendly and funny,” she said.
While the Bleyles hold on to their Apple shares as a kind of retirement account, they have started to spend lavishly in some areas. The couple recently took their children and grandchildren on a vacation to Cancun. For the trip to the company’s Cupertino headquarters, they flew first class.
Still, the Bleyles didn’t leave the shareholder meeting completely happy. Rich wanted to hear what Apple was going to do with its nearly $100 billion in cash and investments that’s sitting on its balance sheet.
“I would have liked them to make an announcement for a dividend,” said Rich.
Inside the shareholder meeting, investors thanked Apple’s management for its success and sought clues about future products. Many of those in attendance were Apple loyalists. Mark Barchas, who has owned shares for about 14 years, owns an iPhone, iPad, iMac and Apple TV. He’s such a fan that he can’t bring himself to sell the shares, even as they hit record highs.
“One time he sold and couldn’t sleep until he bought it back,” said his wife, Kay.
Commenting on the smiley shareholders inside the meeting, away from the labor protesters, Barchas said: “They’ve all made a lot of money, so they are happy.”