Apple, the gargantuan corporation that is planning a move into Nevada, has been benefiting from a lot of journalism about how it is the “the most valuable company of all time,” a phrase used by both the Wall Street Journal and CNN Money to describe Apple’s $622 billion value. U.S. News carried the headline, “Apple’s Record as The Most Valuable Company Could Stand for a While.”
It stood for less than a day. Apple isn’t even close to being the most valuable company. The Columbia Journalism Review posted an essay pointing out that almost none of the reporters covering the story did the math. This was the headline on the Bloomberg News story: “Apple Becomes Biggest Company in History, Passing Microsoft in 1999.”
“It takes $1.38 in today’s dollars to equal the same value as one 1999 dollar,” CJR reported. “That means Microsoft’s peak market cap in 1999 was actually about $856 billion in constant dollars, $235 billion more than Apple’s current market cap.”
Gannett’s USA Today actually did the math, but buried it deep in its story and put the false information up at the top!
Others pointed out that Apple is only the largest of public companies. Privately held corporations, such as the Saudi oil company, may be ahead of Microsoft. Suzanne Tindal of ZDNet even suggested that in current dollars, the South Sea Company—founded in Britain in 1711—would be the most valuable of all time.