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How Apple got to a (pre-split) $799.26

Apple set a new all-time high Friday, closing at $114.18 — nearly $800 in pre-split shares.

For those who remember Sept. 2012, when $700 a share was considered “nose-bleed territory,” $800 represents a real milestone. Two years later — and 20 months after the stock fell below $400 — Friday’s record close looks less like a isolated peak and more like a base for further growth.

How did that happen?

Tim Cook will tell you — echoing Steve Jobs — that it was by making great products that enhance customers’ lives.

But you won’t hear Cook repeating the other half of Jobs’ mantra, delivered most famously in a 1997 Q&A with developers (video below): That if you keep your eye on the prize, the press and the share price will take care of themselves.

That’s one piece of advice that Cook, when he became CEO, felt free to ignore.

A timeline:

  • March 2012: Apple initiates quarterly dividend of $2.65 and announces a $10 billion share re-purchase plan (link)
  • Feb. 2013: Responds to proposal by Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn that Apple distribute its excess cash in the form of preferred shares. (link)
  • April 2013: Raises dividend to $3.05. Doubles capital return program. A total of $100 billion to be returned to shareholders by 2015. (link)
  • Sept. 2013: Cook has dinner with Carl Icahn, who is advocating a $150 billion stock buyback.
  • March 2014: Replaces long-time CFO Peter Oppenheimer with Luca Maestri, formerly Apple’s controller and vice president of finance (link)
  • April 2014: Announces another dividend increase (to $3.29, with plans to increase it every year). Expands its capital return program to roughly $130 billion. Initiates a 7-for-1 stock split. (link)
  • Meanwhile, has the press taken care of itself, as Jobs promised?

    AppleInsider’s Daniel Eran Dilger doesn’t think so.

    “Apple has spent $68 billion on stock buybacks since initiating its capital return program, ” he wrote Friday, “including an opportunistic $14 billion share grab initiated after the stock plunged more than 8% in January following the company’s holiday Q1 release which detailed its highest ever quarterly revenues and operating profits — results that the tech media depicted as ‘disappointing.'”

    Below: Steve Jobs in 1997 talking about killing products, saying “no” and letting the press and the share price take care of themselves.

    [youtube=http://youtu.be/x7dqG9m9d44]

    Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at fortune.com/ped or subscribe via his RSS feed.