Apple’s outgoing board member reflects on his long career

Picture: Intuit

Outgoing board member Bill Campbell reflects on his years at Apple. Picture: Intuit

Earlier today it was reported that Bill Campbell, aka Apple’s longest-serving board member, has elected to step down after 17 years. In a timely interview with Fortune, Campbell — who has been involved with Apple dating back to 1983 — reflects on several topics, ranging from Tim Cook’s leadership style to the challenge of balancing advisory work at Google with Steve Jobs’ “thermonuclear war” threats.

Selected highlights are below:

On getting asked to join the Apple board in 1997, by Palo Alto neighbor Steve Jobs: “[Steve] came by one day, and we sat on a bench by the pool, and he said, ‘I’d like you to join the Apple board.’ The only time I’ve had a rush like that was when I was asked to be a trustee of Columbia University. I said, without hesitation, ‘For sure.’”

On watching Jobs mature as Apple’s leader: “I watched him emerge as a CEO in real time. I had a continuum with him. I watched him when he was general manager of the Mac division and when he went off and started NeXT. I watched Steve go from being a creative entrepreneur to a guy who had to run a business.”

On serving on the Apple board, while advising at Google: “Steve would say, ‘If you’re helping them you’re hurting me.’ He would yell at me. I’d say, ‘I can’t do HTML, come on. I’m just coaching them on how to run their company better.’”

On Apple today, and Tim Cook: “Apple is an institution now. Tim’s done an amazing job of building bench strength within the organization. There’s a whole set of new and smart people who are taking over. You’re watching that company grow up … Tim is a calm, thoughtful guy. He studies things and thinks about them, makes a decision, and moves on.”

Campbell is being replaced on the Apple board by Wall Street veteran Susan Wagner, an executive who co-founded one the world’s top investment firms.

Tim Cook has reportedly offered to make a contribution involving Campbell’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to recognize Campbell’s service to Apple.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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