Who’s behind the Tim-Cook-must-go whisper campaign?

April 22, 2013, 11:35 AM UTC
Cook in February.

FORTUNE — The last time we wrote about Doug Kass — a small hedge fund manager with a large presence on CNBC — it was to document a neat little trick he played on his Twitter feed in February, the day before Apple’s annual shareholder meeting.

Apple’s (AAPL) share price was down and Kass was long the stock. He tweeted a rumor that the company was about to announce a split, the stock went up, he sold his shares at a profit, tweeted that the rumor was baseless and then spent the rest of the day hurling insults at his critics. (See A day in the Twitter life of Doug Kass.)

Well, Kass is at it again. On Sunday, citing the same “Gnome” that was the source for his stock split story, he tweeted:

@DougKass: From my Gnome,  high above the Alps – “Is Apple’s Tim Cook… Cooked?”

Kass, it turns out, is not alone in suggesting that the solution to Apple’s woes on Wall Street is to fire its CEO. We’ve been hearing whispers to that effect from disgruntled shareholders for weeks, but now — two days before Cook is scheduled to report Apple’s March quarterly earnings — they’ve come to the surface.

And who’s doing that? Let’s take a look:

  • We’ve got the tweet from Doug Kass, whose main Apple-related claim to fame was to publish his “Bear Case for Apple” the day before the stock began a nosedive that lopped $300 billion off the market cap of the world’s most valuable company.
  • We’ve got The impossible task of fixing Apple by Rob Enderle, a consultant for Dell (DELL), Microsoft (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and others, who has made a career of bad-mouthing Apple in print and on TV. (For background on Enderle, you can start with John Gruber’s 2003 Putting the ‘anal’ in ‘analyst‘.)
  • We’ve got Sunday’s Is Apple Looking For A Replacement For CEO Cook? in Forbes.com, the online arm of a once-respected business publication whose experiment in what it calls “incentive-based, entrepreneurial journalism” has led to what Macworld calls “a relentless clown show of anti-Apple contributors.”

Make no mistake, the people who want Tim Cook’s head on a spike are not friends of Apple. As far as I know, he still has the deep respect of the analysts who know the company best and — most important — the confidence of the board of directors who granted a million restricted shares of Apple as an incentive for him to stick around for at least a decade.

For the record, Apple is still trading higher today than it was when Cook replaced Steve Jobs. The forces that drove the stock up to over $700 and then down to below $390 seem to me to have more to do with a dysfunctional securities market than anything Cook has done as CEO.

“The market is crying uncle and something has got to give,” says Oracle Investment’s Laurence Isaac Balter, who has been banging the “Cook must go” drum for weeks.

“If a stock rally hits on this rumor before earnings it will be a sign for sure.”

Now that’s rich.

UPDATE: Rocco Pendola, who blows hot and cold on Apple, weighed in to say he’s been publicly lobbying for Cook’s ouster in his column on The Street since last Wednesday, including a piece Monday morning that called the decision to recommend Cook as CEO the worst decision Steve Jobs ever made.

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