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Tickers in this Article: AAPL, MSFT, XOM, F, GOOG, AMZN, CMI
On December 1, 2000, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares were trading for a split-adjusted $8.53. Ten years later, Apple has become one of the hottest stocks on the market trading in the range of $320. As the company has revolutionized both itself and the technology sector over the last decade, Steve Jobs, who once was fired from the company he founded for having diverging views for corporate growth, earned the title of MarketWatch's CEO of the decade.

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Corporate Growth
Over the past year, Apple has become the world's largest technology company, surpassing Microsoft (NADAQ:MSFT) by approximately $60 billion and although it still has a ways to go, its market cap is slowly gaining on the oil giant Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM). With sales of over 70 million iPhone, 4.2 million iPads since the last quarter and the creation of the iPod which transformed the music industry, Apple has become a regular household name.

Over the past five years, Apple shares have easily outperformed the S&P 500, the S&P 500 Computer Hardware industry and the Dow Jones U.S. Technology sector by a wide margin. Sales have not only been increasing in North America, but the largest jump has occurred in Asia Pacific, as net sales surged by 160% on a year-over year basis. The iPad was released in China on September 17th, a week before the long-anticipated iPhone.

Honorable Mentions
Although Apple's performance has been nothing short of stellar, stock return was one of the required criteria in selecting the best CEOs. "Performance for customers, treatment of employees, corporate-governance initiatives and corporate sustainability" were also factors of consideration. Alan Mulally, the CEO of Ford (NYSE:F) was awarded the honor of CEO of the year and Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) Jeff Bezos, Starbucks' (NASDAQ:SBUX) Howard Schultz, Cummins' (NYSE:CMI) Tim Solso and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Eric Schmidt were among the finalists.

Future Initiatives?
With over $11 billion of cash on its balance sheet and no debt, Apple has the option to ramp up research and development, pursue acquisitions, buyback shares, or initiate a dividend policy - an unlikely maneuver for a growing technology firm. Despite that there have been rumors of possible major acquisition targets and even the release of the iPad 2, Apple adheres to their closed business model of releasing minimal information. The only person who may truly know the direction of the business over a five- or 10- year time is probably Steve, but he's not likely to share this with the world.

Bottom Line
Management provides the proper backbone of a successful company. Even after overcoming a liver transplant, Steve Jobs has managed to continue propelling Apple to new heights in terms of stock price and technological innovation. (Financial statements don't tell you everything about a company's health. Investigate the management behind the numbers! Check out Evaluating A Company's Management.)

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