Apple Inc. approached Blackstone Group LP Chief Financial Officer Laurence Tosi to become its finance chief, three people with knowledge of the matter said.
Tosi told Blackstone Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman that he plans to stay put, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks were private. Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, said the company is "not conducting a CFO search." Current CFO Peter Oppenheimer "loves the company and is extremely happy in his role," Dowling said.
A change in Apple’s CFO post would be the first since 2004, when CEO Steve Jobs, 55, appointed Oppenheimer, now 48, to replace Fred Anderson, who later co-founded private equity firm Elevation Partners. Since then, Cupertino, California-based Apple has become the world’s second-largest company by market value as its stock has surged more than 20-fold. None of the 55 Apple analysts tracked by Bloomberg rates the shares “sell.”
"They have been managing the balance sheet well," said Giri Cherukuri, a portfolio manager at Oakbrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois, which holds Apple shares. "They have had a lot of products and the cash position has growth and they are being smart about spending that money wisely."
Oppenheimer, who has been with Apple since 1996, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Christine Anderson, a spokeswoman for New York-based Blackstone, declined to comment.
‘Money to Spend’
Apple’s holdings of cash and short-term investments climbed to $25.6 billion as of Sept. 30 from $15.4 billion three years earlier. Investors and analysts including Toni Sacconaghi of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. have called on Apple to return some of its cash to investors in the form of a buyback or dividend.
In October, Jobs said that the company has a good track record of using its cash and is reserving it for one or more “strategic opportunities.”
A new CFO would have "a lot of money to spend," Cherukuri said. "They have a big cash pile that you need to decide what do with."
Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. in San Francisco, called Apple’s approach to Tosi a “head scratcher” because the CFO needs to manage the finances of the company’s manufacturing supply chain. That skill set comes from experience at another technology hardware company, he said.
“It’s just a different mindset,” said Marshall, who has interviewed Oppenheimer as part of his work for Gleacher, an investment bank. “This is certainly a surprising development considering the financial performance of him and his team.”
Marshall said Oppenheimer is considered a long shot to take over as CEO if Jobs were to step aside. The position is more likely to go to Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who took over as CEO on an interim basis when Jobs was on health leave, Marshall said.
Tosi, 42, would have brought Apple more experience with corporate acquisitions. Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm, made more than 30 purchases last year, according to Bloomberg data. Apple made four, the data show. Tosi previously worked for Merrill Lynch & Co. and the business channel CNBC. He’s been Blackstone’s CFO since September 2008.
Apple fell 27 cents to $333.73 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares rose 53 percent last year.
With a market value of $306.1 billion, Apple is second only to Exxon Mobil Corp. among the world’s largest publicly traded companies. Blackstone has a market value of $16.4 billion, after a 7.9 percent increase in its stock price last year.
At New York-based Merrill Lynch, which was the largest brokerage and third-biggest U.S. securities firm before its 2009 acquisition by Bank of America Corp., Tosi served as chief operating officer of the trading and investment-banking division. A graduate of Georgetown University with a law degree and an MBA, Tosi joined Merrill in 1999 from CNBC, where he was head of business development.
Oppenheimer joined Apple from Automatic Data Processing Inc., where he was CFO of one of four strategic business units. Before that, he was a consultant at Coopers & Lybrand LLP. He holds a bachelor’s from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, and an MBA from the University of Santa Clara.