The most valuable tech company on Earth has a new boss, and it’s Tim Cook, an intensely private and soft-spoken man who is taking over the role of CEO from one of the most iconic personalities on the planet. But who is Tim Cook? What’s he like? What’s he done to deserve the job? And can Apple really succeed without Steve Jobs at the helm?
To the latter question, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, Tim Cook has arguably been running Apple’s day-to-day operations for years. He has been more integral than anyone else in the company short of Steve himself in turning Apple around from a dying and moribund PC maker into the unstoppable juggernaut the company is today. Here’s what you need to know.
• The son of a shipyard worker, Tim Cook was born on November 1, 1960 in Robertsdale, Alabama. He’s 50.
• Cook earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Auburn University. He also has an MBA from Duke University as a Fuqua Scholar, which he achieved in 1988.
• Cook worked at IBM for 12 years starting in 1982.
• At IBM, Tim Cook was known for his dedication, working over Christmas and New Year holidays just so that IBM could complete its orders for the year.
• Within IBM, Cook was known for his geniality with his old IBM boss Richard Daugherty once saying off Cook that he had “a manner that really caused people to enjoy working with him.”
• In 1994, Tim Cook joined Intelligent Electronics’ computer reseller division, where he racked up his first position as COO.
• After selling the computer reseller division to Ingram Micro in 1997, Tim Cook went on to Compaq.
• Steve Jobs recognizes talent when he sees it, and after meeting Cook, poached him just six months into his career at Compaq.
• Tim Cook came to Apple in 1998. His first position was as the Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations. In that position, Cook revolutionized Apple’s supply chain and built strong relationships with external manufacturers.
• Tim Cook is a notorious workaholic. He reportedly starts emailing his colleagues at 4:30am every day and used to hold Sunday night telephone meetings with managers to prepare for the week ahead.
• Cook’s no-nonsense approach to management and solving problems was made immediately evident upon coming to Apple. When in a meeting discussing a problem in China, Tim Cook noted that the problem was “really bad” and that someone should be in China fixing it. Thirty minutes later, Cook then famously looked over at Apple’s operations manager, Sabih Khan, and asked “Why are you still here?” Khan was on the next flight to China.
• One of the ways in which Cook revolutionized Apple’s supply chain was by virtually eliminating stockpiled inventory. This is important because every product that is stuck in a warehouse costs Apple money instead of making them money. Cook has called inventory “fundamentally evil” and likened the way a computer maker should handle inventory as being similar to the way a milkman should deliver milk: as straight from the cow as possible. By closing down warehouses, slashing inventory and getting products into consumer’s hands as directly from the manufacturing factories as possible, Cook has been integral in making Apple the most profitable PC maker on Earth.
• Tim Cook also convinced Apple to steer away from manufacturing its own components, and instead partner with external manufacturers like Foxconn.
• By building up these relationships with external manufacturers and investing heavily in them, Tim Cook helped develop another of Apple’s major strategies: creating revolutionary products, then locking up all the manufacturing resources necessary to making them. Cook created this strategy with the iPod Nano in 2005, and you can see it to this day: the reason no other company makes products like Apple’s is because the resources simply aren’t there, Apple controls them all.
• In 2004, Tim Cook took over the Macintosh division at Apple and oversaw the migration of Macs from PowerPC to Intel chips. By doing so and making it possible for Windows to run on a Mac through Boot Camp, Tim Cook’s strategy allowed millions of on-the-fence computer users to finally switch to Mac.
• It was while being the head of the Mac division in 2004 that Tim Cook first took over for Steve Jobs and became interim CEO while Jobs went in for pancreatic surgery.
• In 2007, Tim Cook was promoted to COO.
• Two years later, in 2009, Tim Cook again took over as CEO when Steve Jobs took medical leave in order to get a liver transplant.
• Finally, in January this year, Tim Cook took over the reins as interim CEO when Steve Jobs announced that we would be taking an extended medical leave.
• Combined, Tim Cook has spent over a year as the interim CEO of Apple.
• Not much is known about Tim Cook’s personal habits, as he is notoriously soft spoken and private. However, he is a fitness enthusiasts and enjoys hiking, cycling and going to the gym. He’s also on the board of directors of Nike.
• Tim Cook is a huge fan of Auburn’s football team.
• Not that it matters, but yes, Tim Cook is probably gay.
• Despite the fact that he was clearly being groomed for the job since at least 2004, Tim Cook never thought he’d be made CEO. He once famously said, “Come on, replace Steve? No. He’s irreplaceable… That’s something people have to get over. I see Steve there with gray hair in his 70s, long after I’m retired.”
• Although his personality is different than Jobs, who can be notoriously fearsome, he is quiet, pleasant and measured. TUAW’s Michael Grothaus, who used to work at Apple, wrote this about him:
Tim Cook is one of those rare people who stop and think before speaking. Standing in the same room with him I realized that he’s comfortable with silence as long as that silence is productive and appropriate. He’s not like other tech execs who ramble almost immediately and incoherently at any question lobbed at them, as if doing so will convince others they know everything about everything.
Tim Cook is a person who has confidence in his position as a leader, sans ego. Ego doesn’t take pauses. It’s rapid-fire. And it’s that confidence and lack of ego that allows him the time to examine the issues and questions at hand, no matter how lowly or silly others may think them, and address them appropriately.
• Can Tim Cook handle his role as Apple’s new CEO? Absolutely. In fact, arguably, he’s been running most of Apple for the last few years, with Apple’s ex-online store GM Michael Janes saying way back in 2009, “Tim runs Apple, and has for a very long time.”