Meet the winner of Apple 3.0's 2022 price target contest

"If you Google my name with the word 'frog' my passion for these critters will be revealed."

Robert Stack, this year's winner (Bet: $175. Friday's close: $174.31), bought his first Apple shares at a split-adjusted $3.72.

While I wish I could point to some proprietary financial model that I devised based on brilliant analyses and insights, the simple truth is that I just got lucky. My winning pick of $175 was really an “educated guess”, though of course I've paid close attention to Apple for many years. It all started with my first computer: a Powerbook 5300c. That was followed by a Powerbook G3, and then my first iPod. I loved them all!

So while I regret not buying the stock earlier, I finally got the courage and in October 2008 I bought my first shares at a split-adjusted price of $3.72/sh. So I can’t really complain, esp since I purchased additional shares over the years in both my brokerage account and an IRA. Through many crazy years of sometimes wild price fluctuations, I held onto every one of those shares with the knowledge and fortitude I’d acquired reading the many brilliant pieces that Horace Dediu would post on his asymco blog. So Horace, If you’re reading this: Thank You - I owe you a beer!

This may be hard for some 3.0 readers to believe, but my current computer is a 2015 MacBook Air - primarily because of MagSafe. Plus it still does everything I need it to do, and the original battery still gets me through an entire day. I’m hoping the new MBAs coming out this Fall with the M2 chip will have MagSafe, as that’s when I plan to upgrade: I’ll either get a new Air or MB Pro. BTW, I finally “recycled” my original 5300c, my G3, and my 2nd gen iPod to an Apple store almost exactly a year ago - all were still in working order and it was quite a scene as both “Geniuses” and Salepeople came over to marvel at my working “antiques.”

Not to sound like the Oscars here, but I also want to acknowledge my Mom as I learned about investing in my early teens under her astute tutelage. She was the financially literate one in our family, and despite our blue collar status, always believed in carving out something for saving and investment. She avidly read the WSJ daily, and had subscriptions to “Changing Times” and “Value Line”. This latter firm used to send out these detailed reports every week on rotating sectors of the economy that contained rankings of individual companies. These reports were printed out on cheap newsprint and came pre-punched to fit into these blue three ring binders. My Mom was always excited on “Value Line” day, and being an impressionable youngster, I wanted to learn more about my Mom’s passions. So Thanks Mom! [Full Disclosure: As some of you will no doubt suspect, our family also had a subscription to the NYT - while I recognize her decline, the Old Grey Lady is still a good friend. 🙂 ]

OK, so Philip said I should also tell you a little bit about myself. I’ve had a very non-linear career. On graduating from college in 1976, I had a very big decision to make: science or the music business. I’d been the Vice Chair of the concert committee at Rutgers U, and had the experience of putting on concerts by major recording artists like Jackson Browne, Billy Joel, The Kinks, Harry Chapin and many others. I even helped Bruce Springsteen “crash” a Billy Joel concert at Rutgers one time, which created a joint encore performance that lasted until 2AM. Anyway, we worked with John Scher, the major concert promoter in NYC at the time, and when I graduated he asked me if I had any interest in working for his firm. It was flattering as well as tempting, but to be honest I didn’t think I’d live very long or healthfully if I made that choice. So I decided to go to grad school at UC Davis and get an advanced degree in Biochemistry.

So my first job after my PhD and postdoc was as a research scientist with the USDA in Peoria IL, where I stayed five years before returning to the west coast in 1989 to take a job at a start-up biopharmaceutical firm in Alameda, CA. It seemed like all my friends were involved in start-ups at the time; ours was on a roll for a while but our stock crashed after a disappointing clinical trial. So the VC backing the company felt that the best option was to sellout for not much more than the remaining cash we had in the bank. It was hugely disappointing to say the least! Over many intervening years, I consulted for several major Bay Area biotech firms and was involved in two more start-ups: one as a founding member; in both I served as a VP. My "last hurrah” was recently acquired by a major scientific instrumentation company, though the financial premium was nothing to write home about. I always tried to keep my biochemistry balanced with the strong interest I also have in amphibian conservation, and if you Google my name with the word “frog” my passion for these critters will be revealed.

In 2006, with my Mom’s health on the decline, I wanted to return east. So I took a job managing a research grants program with an agency of the federal govt. Over the next 13 years, I refocused the program to better understand the chemistry and physics of energy capture, conversion, and storage reactions in biological systems. It was the most rewarding job I ever had; one of many highlights was attending a Nobel Prize reception for one of my grantees (a Stanford prof!) at the Swedish embassy in DC. (I had to buy a new suit for that one!) My federal colleagues were some of the best and brightest I've ever worked worked with, and they put in long hours. As a taxpayer it was gratifying to see that at least some parts of the federal govt still work. The one major downside of this wonderful job was my constant travel back and forth to the Bay Area, as I’d left my heart in San Francisco (actually, Oakland, but poetic license).

When covid first hit in March 2020, I simply stayed in the Bay Area teleworking but knew that at some point I’d be called back to the DC area. So I retired in January 2021 and married my long-term partner, feeling financially secure thanks to Apple. I do receive a modest federal pension, but its not enough to live on. I’m not sure what’s next for me, as I have no intention of sitting around in a rocking chair. Right now I’m exploring options, and in the meantime, I’ve been donating some of my appreciated AAPL stock to my Fidelity Charitable acct in order to support the causes that most resonate with me. As Steve said, “Stay hungry, stay foolish!"

My take: Lovely story, nicely told. Thank you for sharing it.

See also:

15 Comments

  1. Bart Yee said:
    Congratulations Robert!! And great summary of your life and career. Happy to see you making a difference.

    Do you know Prof. Nathan Lewis of Caltech who works on artificial photosynthesis and semiconductor photoelectrochemistry? Old high school classmate and fellow LA Dodgers fan. Don’t hold that last part against us, the Dodgers – Giants rivalry is the best in baseball

    3
    April 4, 2022
    • Robert Stack said:
      Yes, I know Nate. He was the first Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), which primarily involved Berkeley and Caltech PIs. Our team made this grant after a very tough competition; my personal involvement was not as high as on some other projects.

      BTW, I’m a NY Mets fan and nothing will ever beat the 1969 Miracle Mets! I was 15 years old at the time, and slept outside of Shea Stadium to buy World Series tix! But TBH, I don’t follow much baseball these days…

      1
      April 4, 2022
  2. Fred Stein said:
    Congrats, Robert. Thanks for your insights, irony, modesty, and joie de vive.

    5
    April 4, 2022
  3. Michael Goldfeder said:
    It’s always interesting to find out about the varied stories and paths which led Apple shareholders coming together as subscribers on the Apple 3.0 site. Congratulations on the win and I only have one question: Have you ever been to Calaveras County?

    1
    April 4, 2022
    • Robert Stack said:
      I’ve not only been to Calaveras County, I lived there for about four years. Off the grid in a 30 foot Airstream with two 75W solar panels charging four lead acid batteries. My amphibian conservation institute was based in Angels Camp, which as some know hosts the annual world frog jumping championships. (All to capitalize on the notoriety of Mark Twain’s “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”). I even hired a professional Mark Twain impersonator to show up at a critical public hearing to speak on behalf of the California red-legged frog, a species listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

      3
      April 4, 2022
      • Robert Paul Leitao said:
        Congratulations, Robert! Thank you for sharing your story!

        2
        April 4, 2022
  4. Aaron Belich said:
    Congratulations Robert, and thank you for sharing!

    3
    April 4, 2022
  5. Don Donofrio said:
    Very enjoyable write up. Nicely played guess. Congrats on the win.

    On to 2023!

    3
    April 4, 2022
  6. Jacob Feenstra said:
    Congrats, Robert. You beat me by a nose length… and I was all too happy, because I have been very busy with meetings and traveling this last week. I knew that Phil would ask for some sort of rationale and bio! So thanks for bailing me out and some others who had a “close calls”!

    I got into AAPL about 10 years ahead of you. Recently I did some calculations on AAPL stock price YOY (April1 to April 1). The average over the time that I’ve been in AAPL (from 1998 on) was about 40% a year. So this last year was actually close to average. Isn’t that amazing!

    I also know what you mean about a 2015 MacBook Air. My wife has one from 2015 and I was still using a 2014 MacBook Air. Crazy, I’ve dragged it all over the world and it has spent more than half of its life in tropical climates. Anyway, we both finally upgraded in February. She got a MacBook Air again, I got a MacBook Pro. Be it said that at our two homes—we live part-time in Asia and part-time in Canada—I routinely use a stationary iMac in each location.

    1
    April 4, 2022
    • Bart Yee said:
      On some of the AAPL shares I sold today, my cost basis was…$1.45.

      2
      April 4, 2022
  7. Robert Stack said:
    Thank you all for the kind words. In addition, I want to acknowledge how much I’ve learned from the many members of this community whose diverse opinions are shared here on 3.0. Generally in a respectful way…

    PS: My AAPL PT for April 1, 2023 is $211. (Only because Romeo snuck his $210 mere minutes before I.) 😉 Rest assured I’m not counting on getting lucky two years in a row…

    3
    April 4, 2022
    • Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
      Haha, Robert, sorry about that. Maybe I’ll win next year if you forecast correctly two years in a row 🙂

      But CONGRATZ this year!!
      I just finished reading to my wife what you shared. So wonderful to share with us your story & unique life path. Here’s to a glorious winding road ahead for you, your partner, and your Mom – God bless you all!

      1
      April 5, 2022
  8. Jonny T said:
    We’ll done Robert. And congrats to the other 8 who were between 170 and 180..! Just a bit of a pity that those of us at the top end – 130+ – didn’t win!! But I guess everyone here are winners anyway…

    1
    April 5, 2022
  9. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    There are probably some wonderful tales within the Apple 3.0 corral worthy of repeating for the benefit of all.

    Thanks for sharing yours Robert.

    Geaux .

    0
    April 6, 2022

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