Who Owns Apple: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Article Teaser: Who Owns Apple: The Largest Shareholders Overview

Apple Inc. (AAPL) is one of the biggest companies in the world. It makes money mainly by selling mobile phones and connected services within its tightly closed ecosystem. The company is tied to the legacy of its iconic co-founder Steve Jobs who was also its CEO. So, who are Apple’s largest shareholders, and who controls the voting power?

The largest shareholders of Apple Inc. are asset managers Vanguard (8% ownership) and BlackRock (6%), followed by Berkshire Hathaway (6%), a company led by legendary investor Warren Buffet. None of the Apple founders (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) or their families own significant stakes anymore.

 Apple's Largest Shareholders (Dec 2021)
Shareholder Ownership Voting Power
Vanguard 7.7% 7.7%
BlackRock 6.2% 6.2%
Berkshire Hathaway 5.6% 5.6%
Other 80.5% 80.5%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

Apple largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart) Apple largest shareholders by share ownership and vote control (donut chart)

As you can see from the table and visuals above, the list of top shareholders of Apple is quite dull and consists only of large asset managers investing money of other people. This is to be expected for one of the largest companies in the world.

The only interesting thing is significant ownership by Berkshire Hathaway, a company led by legendary investor Warren Buffet. Hathaway’s portfolio has quite a large concentration in Apple stocks, so even though Berhsire’s whole invested portfolio is much smaller than that of Vanguard or Blackrock, they are a significant shareholder in Apple.

You won’t find founders Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak or their families among significant shareholders because they sold their large stakes in the mid-1980s. Steve Jobs then, after 1997, when he returned to Apple, received some Apple shares over the years. Shortly before his death, Steve Jobs’s Apple ownership was 0.6%. It was nothing significant, although still worth nearly $2 billion at the time.

Nobody from current Apple management holds any significant stake. The largest ones are held by Art Levinson (Chairman of the Board) and Tim Cook (CEO). Each owns a few million shares, meaning nearly zero % ownership. Nevertheless, even 0.02% ownership, which Tim Cook held based on Apple’s proxy statement, is worth around half a billion US dollars.

In this article, I will dive more into who Apple’s largest shareholders are, how many shares and votes they have, and how much their stake is worth. I will also explore some other topics related to its ownership structure.

If you are interested, you can also explore who are the largest shareholders in other technology companies like Amazon, Meta(Facebook), Microsoft, or Alphabet(Google).

🕹️ Who Owns Apple (AAPL) and Who Has Control?

The chart below depicts both the ownership and voting power of the largest shareholders. You can see that ownership share equals voting power.

Apple largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Unlike some younger technology companies, Apple has only one class of shares, which means that all shareholders have the same rights, and each share has the same amount of votes.

Apple’s ownership is quite disbursed, and the main shareholders are asset managers investing money in the name of other investors.

No shareholder or group of shareholders has majority control over Apple.

Apple’s disbursed ownership brings its own set of problems thanks to possible conflicts of interests between Apple’s management and its investors that are themselves represented by another management layer in the form of asset management companies. This situation is, unfortunately, to be expected for a company of Apple’s size since it is not easy to fund an acquisition of a large stake to get a say in Apple’s decision-making.

🗳️ Breakdown of Apple’s Outstanding Shares and Votes by Top Shareholders

Apple Inc. had a total of 16,334 million outstanding shares as of December 2021. The following table shows how many shares each Apple’s large shareholder holds.

 Apple's Outstanding Shares by Shareholder
In millions of shares as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class B Class C Total % Share
Vanguard 1,261 - - 1,261 7.7%
BlackRock 1,020 - - 1,020 6.2%
Berkshire Hathaway 908 - - 908 5.6%
Other 13,146 - - 13,146 80.5%
Total (# millions) 16,334 - - 16,334 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

There were 16,334 million votes distributed among shareholders of Apple Inc.. The table below shows the total number of votes for each large shareholder.

 Apple's Vote Control by Shareholder
In millions of votes as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class B Class C Total % Share
Vanguard 1,261 - - 1,261 7.7%
BlackRock 1,020 - - 1,020 6.2%
Berkshire Hathaway 908 - - 908 5.6%
Other 13,146 - - 13,146 80.5%
Total (# millions) 16,334 - - 16,334 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

As you can see there is no difference between shares and votes, thanks to Apple having only a single class of shares.

💵 Breakdown of Apple’s Market Value by Shareholder

The following table summarizes how much is each shareholder’s stake in Apple Inc. worth.

However, keep in mind that a stake in Apple could be just one part of their portfolio, and their total worth could be bigger, thanks to other investments. It could also be lower if they have debts.

 Apple's Market Value by Shareholder
Market value in billions $ as of December 2021
Shareholder Class A Class B Class C Total % Share
Vanguard $224 - - $224 7.7%
BlackRock $181 - - $181 6.2%
Berkshire Hathaway $161 - - $161 5.6%
Other $2,334 - - $2,334 80.5%
Total ($ billions) $2,900 - - $2,900 100.0%
Listed are shareholders holding >5% of any share class or notable in other ways
   Source: Multiple SEC fillings

Let’s now look at each Apple shareholder individually.

📒 Who Are the Largest Shareholders of Apple Inc.

Let’s now go through the list of the largest shareholders of Apple Inc. one by one and look at who they are, how many shares they own, what is their voting power, and how much is their stake in Apple worth.

#1 Vanguard

Vanguard holds 8% of Apple’s shares making it its largest shareholder.

Apple largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Vanguard owns 1,261 million Apple shares, representing 1,261 million shareholder votes. The market value of Vanguard’s stake in Apple was $224 billion as of December 2021.

Vanguard (The Vanguard Group) is one of the largest asset managers in the world. It manages other people’s money through its mutual funds and exchange-traded funds and also offers other related investing and financial planning services.

Vanguard differs from other large asset managers by having no actual “owner .” Officially Vanguard says that its investors own it since its funds own it, and Vanguard fund investors own those funds.

However, the actual decision power is in the hands of Vanguard’s insiders since the ownership is diluted over millions of investors worldwide.

Vanguard has significant influence over the largest public companies. Thanks to its size, Vanguard usually belongs to the largest shareholders in those companies and has considerable power at their shareholder meetings. This is especially true if ownership is diluted.

Vanguard representatives make the calls about which shareholder proposal to support or not, even though Vanguard is not the ultimate owner of those stocks and they belong to their clients.

It means that just a few people in charge of the largest asset managers have significant sway over many publicly traded companies. They are usually the median investors that can push or kill many proposals. As passive investing became more popular and the asset management market more concentrated, this became quite a concerning issue.

  • Several terms were coined to describe this issue. Some call it asset manager capitalism, and popular is also the power of twelve. Financial Times even put together who exactly those twelve people might be.

  • Vanguard and other large fund managers are trying to address those concerns by having public policies describing how they are exercising their voting power. But as you can imagine, this is still a situation full of conflicts of interest.
  • Evidence shows that big asset managers usually vote together with management.

#2 BlackRock

BlackRock holds 6% of Apple’s shares which makes it its second-largest shareholder.

Apple largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

BlackRock owns 1,020 million Apple shares, representing 1,020 million shareholder votes. The market value of BlackRock’s stake in Apple was $181 billion as of December 2021.

BlackRock, Inc. is the world’s largest asset manager, with assets under management of $10 trillion. BlackRock is not only an asset manager, but it also provides other asset managers and corporations with its Aladdin portfolio management software.

BlackRock is a publicly traded company, and its largest shareholders are its competitors, including BlackRock itself. Not directly but through their passive and active funds. The largest shareholder is Vanguard.

A similar situation is also true in the opposite direction because BlackRock is a significant shareholder in many of its publicly traded competitors and other large institutions, making the whole thing even more eyebrow-raising.

This circular ownership between Vanguard, BlackRock, and other large asset managers, amplifies the issue often raised about the power of these large asset managers over public companies since they usually belong to the most significant shareholders.

  • BlackRock and other large asset managers do not invest their own money, but they have significant voting power that, in most cases, is not passed through to the underlying investors. Therefore, BlackRock itself and its representatives have significant sway over decisions in those companies.

  • In the case of Blackrock, this influence is personified in the form of its CEO Larry Fink, who is a powerful figure with close ties in the FED and US government.

  • Adding to these concerns is evidence that BlackRock and other asset managers usually vote in favor of management proposals.

  • Recently, large asset managers started to be more sympathetic to different climate and environmental-related proposals and even supported activists that went against the management’s wishes. BlackRock was particularly aggressive in this change. Another proof of the power these companies have.

#3 Berkshire Hathaway

Berkshire Hathaway holds 6% of Apple’s shares which makes it its third-largest shareholder.

Apple largest shareholders share ownership vs vote control chart

Berkshire Hathaway owns 908 million Apple shares, representing 908 million shareholder votes. The market value of Berkshire Hathaway’s stake in Apple was $161 billion as of December 2021.

Berkshire Hathaway is an iconic company represented by legendary investor Warren Buffet who is also its significant shareholder and CEO.

Berkshire Hathaway is not a traditional asset manager. It is a conglomerate of insurance businesses, utilities, and other companies. As a result of its large insurance operations, it has a large investment portfolio of other people’s money (insurance float) that it can invest.

Unlike in traditional investment funds, if you buy stocks of Berkshire Hathaway, you don’t just buy a portfolio of stocks. You buy a range of fully owned businesses. Insurance companies with large reserves (float) are one group of those businesses. These reserves are then invested in various investment opportunities.

Company’s CEO Waren Buffet and his “sidekick” Charlie Munger are proponents of value-based, long-term investing. They stick to the business they understand and avoid new trendy things, whatever it means. I think that it is fair to call them “old-school.” Their old-school approach is not limited only to their investment style, as anyone who visited their company webpage can confirm.

❔ Does Steve Jobs and His Family Still Own Apple?

Steve Jobs (Steven P. Jobs) died of cancer in 2011, and his wife, Lauren Power Jobs, inherited his wealth which consisted mainly of a stake in Disney but also of 5.5 million Apple shares, representing 0.6% of the company. It is unclear if Ms. Jobs sold her shares or still holds onto them.

Her ownership is not clear because such a small stake does not require any public disclosure. However, since she significantly reduced her Disney stake, the assumption is that she might have also reduced her stain in Apple, Inc.

Steve Jobs’s ownership at the time of his death was “only” 0.6%, but his original stake as one of the founders of Apple was much larger. So what happened?

Steve Jobs’s stake in Apple, Inc. just after Apple’s IPO in 1980 was around 14% (7.5 million shares). However, this stake was diluted to around 12% shortly after, thanks to new shares issued to employees.

After a few years, in 1985, Steve Jobs lost a power struggle with then-CEO John Sculley. Jobs left Apple and sold all of his shares** which at the time still represented around 11% of Apple. He famously held only one Apple stock since hen.

After he left Apple, Jobs founded NeXT and bought a stake in Pixar from George Lucas. When we fast-forward to 1997, when Apple purchased NeXT because they needed a modern operating system, Jobs returned to Apple as an interim CEO. At that time, he still held just one Apple stock. Over the years, his stake grew to 0.6% of Apple, thanks to his CEO rewards.

❔ Does Steve Wozniak Still Own Apple Shares

It is not clear if Steve Wozniak owns some Apple stock currently. He sold all or most of his Apple stocks in 1985 when he left Apple. He might be an Apple shareholder now, but his stake would be minuscule if he were.

Steve Wozniak’s stake after Apple’s IPO in 1980 was 7% (4 million shares), diluted to 6% thanks to stock issued to employees shortly after IPO. He also famously sold cheaply around 450 000 shares to some of his coworkers when Steve Jobs, in his jerky way, refused to do so.

At the time after IPO, Wozniak was still a large shareholder. However, as I mentioned, he sold his shares around 1985 when he left active work at Apple.

Steve Wozniak, from time to time, represents Apple at some events. Based on his claims, he technically never stopped to be an employee of Apple, even after he left the company in 1985.

❔ Why Did Steve Wozniak Have a Lower Stake in Apple Inc. than Steve Jobs?

Sometimes people ask why Steve Wozniak had so much lower stake when compared to Steve Jobs. However, the fact is Steve Wozniak did not have a smaller share. He just got rid of his stake sooner.

It is true that Jobs, at the end of his life, was far richer than Wozniak, but this was a result mainly of his other ventures like NeXT and Pixar Jobs invested in after he left Apple.

Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. At the time, they had an equal share of 45% each. The remaining 10% was a share of third minority co-founder Ronald Wayne. Wayne decided to sell its share very quickly after that.

After Apple raised capital, Wozniak and Jobs still had an equal stake of 8.3 million shares. However, soon after that, their stakes started to diverge as Wozniak sold more shares before the company IPO. Another reason was that his former wife got around 1.2 million shares as part of their separation agreement.

As a result of the above, just before Apple’s IPO, when Jobs’s stake was 15% (7.5 million shares), Wozniak’s stake was already reduced to around 8% (4 million shares).

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