At the end of October it was Senior Vice President Eduardo Cue selling off over 260,000 of his 284,000, for about $28 million. Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri sold off his 6,116 shares earlier in October, while in September, Senior Vice Presidents Phillip Schiller and Jeffrey Williams each sold off over 340,000 shares apiece leaving them with few shares left in the latter’s case, and none left in the former’s. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook has been involved in the selling frenzy, selling over 348,000 shares in September, over 25% of his shares.
What does it all mean? Surely executives are getting and selling off stock options all the time right? Well if we look at Apple’s insider selling activity before August 2014, we see much less activity, even bearing in mind the 7:1 stock split in late June (meaning selling 10,000 shares before the split would’ve been equivalent to selling 70,000 shares today). There’s a small cluster of selling in the summer of 2013, as shares were bottoming out at the end of June, down 43% from the previous September, and another cluster in early 2012 when shares were in the midst of that meteoric rise to September. However there is little else in the way of notable selling activity over the past three years, certainly nothing on the scale of what we’ve just witnessed in the past few months.
Does the selling indicate a growing sentiment among Apple’s leadership that the time to sell is now? While there is still a lot of bullish sentiment surrounding Apple, including from famed activist investor Carl Icahn, who believes the shares will (or at least should) hit $200 some day, others feel the peak for Apple has been reached, barring a breakthrough in another industry. While there is modest hope that smartwatches could be that industry in the near-term, it’s possible the next real breakthrough won’t come for some months or years and leave Apple’s stock flopping around at or below current levels; though having left many satisfied investors and executives in its wake.