The Business Week In Review: Tim Cook, Mike Ashley, Ian Cheshire, Yell and Nat Rothschild


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The Independent Online

In profit...

Fears that Steve Jobs’s name was bigger than the Apple brand can now be dismissed. On Monday, Apple stock soared past $500-a-share for the first time in the technology behemoth’s history.

Apple chief Tim Cook has not only successfully aped the tech legend’s sartorial style – the black top and blue jeans combo – he is also developing some of his late predecessor’s bite. Cook dismissed the products of rivals as “joyless” and “cheap”, upping the war of words ahead of the widelyanticipated launch of Apple’s latest tablet computer, the iPad 3.

Back in blighty, well-padded Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley could bask in the thanks of his Sports Direct staff – a welcome change from the barrage of criticism he has regularly received from disgruntled Magpies fans.

Outstanding third quarter results on Wednesday mean that under the retailer’s incentive plan, Sports Direct’s 3,000 workers are on track for share bonuses that could eventually be worth more than £30,000 each. Ashley’s own share bonus is currently worth a cool £16m.

Talking of bonuses, Kingfisher boss Ian Cheshire must be grinning like an eponymous cat. In a fourth quarter trading update on Thursday, the B&Q owner revealed the top team had smashed bonus scheme targets. a loss

Yell makes investors want to scream. The Yellow Pages publisher saw shares fall 19 per cent to less than 5p after chief executive Mike Pocock confirmed a steep decline in revenue in last Tuesday’s third quarter results.

The heavily-indebted directories business has suffered horrendously in the crisis: before March 2008, Yell was a FTSE 100 stalwart with a share price that sometimes touched £6. But print advertisers are deserting in droves and Pocock’s digital strategy is yet to wow the market.

However, it could be worse for Pocock: he could be the billionaire scion of a banking dynasty. Last week, Nat Rothschild barely escaped an attempt to have him ousted from the board of Bumi, the coalmining venture. The Bakries, who own a 29.9 per cent stake in Bumi with industrialist Samin Tan, were infuriated by Rothschild’s attack on their corporate governance standards last year. They withdrew an EGM call over a board reshuffle last Tuesday, but Rothschild’s role as co-chairman is now seriously in doubt – just a week after he lost a libel action against the Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, the Olympus scandal rumbles on, with ex-chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa among former execs arrested on suspicion of their roles in the £1.1bn accounting fraud.