Apple CFO Oppenheimer to Retire as Maestri Set to Succeed

Apple Inc. Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer will retire at the end of September, as Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook brings on a new lieutenant to navigate slowing growth at the iPhone maker.

Luca Maestri, 50, who joined Apple as vice president of finance and corporate controller a year ago, will succeed Oppenheimer, the Cupertino, California-based company said in a statement today. Oppenheimer, 51, was at Apple for 18 years, a period when the company introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad, and grew to become the world’s most valuable company.

Oppenheimer oversaw a surge in Apple’s cash pile to $158.8 billion from $5.46 billion in 2004, the year he was promoted to CFO. He reinstated dividends in 2012 and returned more than $50 billion to shareholders. His departure is the biggest change to executive ranks since Cook ousted mobile-software chief Scott Forstall in 2012, and it comes as the company adjusts to more modest sales and profit gains after a period of hyper growth.

“Oppenheimer could personify Apple’s strong growth phase,” said Anil Doradla, a Chicago-based analyst at William Blair & Co. LLC. “In some ways, we are going to a new phase in Apple’s growth trajectory where we’re moving to a more mature phase of the company’s life cycle.”

Oppenheimer said in the statement that he plans to spend more time with his family, get more involved at California Polytechnic State University, travel and finish his pilot’s license.

Leadership Change

Maestri joined Apple in March 2013 and was previously CFO at Xerox Corp. and Nokia Siemens Networks. Maestri will start transitioning into the role of Apple CFO in June.

“When we were recruiting for a corporate controller, we met Luca and knew he would become Peter’s successor,” Cook said in the statement. “Luca has over 25 years of global experience in senior financial management, including roles as a public company CFO, and I am confident he will be a great CFO at Apple.”

Apple shares rose less than 1 percent to $531.24 at the close in New York, leaving them up 22 percent in the past year, compared with a 23 percent climb in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

“When Luca was hired a year ago, we saw the writing on the wall,” said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. who has the equivalent of a buy rating on Apple’s stock.

Activist Investors

Oppenheimer helped Cook stare down activist investors in recent years. Last month, Carl Icahn dropped his campaign urging Apple to buy back $50 billion of stock this year, after the company stepped up repurchases. Apple also appeased hedge-fund manager David Einhorn last year by boosting its dividend and increasing buybacks.

While Apple co-founder Steve Jobs resisted calls to return cash to shareholders, Cook and Oppenheimer have shown a willingness to meet investor demands.

“Look at where Apple came from in terms of cash, capital distribution two years ago -- I mean, it’s night and day,” Munster said. “Oppenheimer was a big part of helping orchestrate that.”

Oppenheimer also oversaw Apple’s tax strategy, which came under scrutiny last year from Senate investigators who said the company used “loopholes” to avoid paying $9 billion in U.S. taxes in 2012. Senator John McCain of Arizona called the company “one of the biggest tax avoiders in America.” Apple denied any wrongdoing, saying it paid $6 billion in U.S. taxes in 2012.

GM Experience

After years of growth fueled by its best-selling consumer gadgets, Apple’s profit and sales have stagnated, in part because of ebbing demand for the iPhone, its top-selling device. Apple last year posted its first profit decline in more than a decade. Last month, the company said revenue this quarter may fall for the first time since 2003.

Maestri’s experience, which includes time at General Motors Co., is with companies that had slower growth rates, said William Blair’s Doradla.

Oppenheimer was paid a total of $2.63 million in Apple’s latest fiscal year, which ended in September. In the prior year, he was paid $68.6 million, including restricted shares, making him the highest-paid CFO at the time. He and other Apple executives were issued stock grants in 2012 to retain top lieutenants after the death of Jobs.

Oppenheimer joined Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s board of directors yesterday after the bank was the lead underwriter on Apple’s bond offering last year.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.