10 things we learned from Tim Cook’s most revealing interview yet

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Tim Cook
Tim Cook had a lot to say.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Due to Apple’s secrecy, and the company’s marketing-driven need to stay “on message,” interviews with senior execs can often be frustratingly free of revelations. That’s not the case with the recent in-depth interview the Washington Post did with CEO Tim Cook, however.

Here are the 10 most interesting tidbits we learned from Cook’s most revealing chat yet.

Apple talks about its succession plans at the end of every board meeting

“At the end of every board meeting, I discuss succession with the board because I might step off the wrong curb or something,” Cook said. “We have the good discipline to do that. Then my role is to make sure that the board has great candidates to pick from internally. And I take that role extremely seriously. Look around at the great people I get to work with — there’s some really just superb talent in the company.”

Still, must be nice to end each meeting with a reminder of your possible untimely death…

Tim Cook doesn’t have much time for analysts

Analysts say the darndest things, right? But while you and I get to take comments about how Apple is doomed with a pinch of salt, for Cook the constant suggestions that Apple — despite its world-beating status — is on the brink of disaster must surely bother him a bit, even just from a stock price perspective. No wonder he doesn’t sound enamored with analysts!

“[H]onestly, they were saying that [Apple was doomed] in 2001,” Cook said. “They were saying it in 2005. They were saying it in 2007 — ‘this stupid iPhone, whoever dreamed up this thing?’ Then they were saying that we peaked in 2010, then it was 2011. We got to $60 billion [in revenue], and they said you can’t grow anymore from this. Well, last year we were $230 billion … I’ve heard all of it before.”

Cook
Cook gives one of the revealing interviews of his career.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Investors should be in it for the long haul

“I think for investors that are focused on the long term, if you look at how we’ve done in the past five years, our total shareholder return is over 100 percent,” Cook said. “That’s a pretty good number. And I think most people that have been in the stock for that period of time are probably pretty happy.”

Steve Jobs’ death took him by surprise

Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field” — his ability to will engineers to create amazing products that seemed impossible — extended to his health, too. Cook says that, when he assumed control of Apple in 2011, he truly believed Jobs was going to still be around as chairman for some time to come.

“[His death came] very quickly,” Cook said. “[The day he died] was sort of the worst day ever. I just — I had really convinced myself. I know this sounds probably bizarre at this point, but I had convinced myself that he would bounce [back], because he always did.”

The social justice side of Apple is incredibly important to him

“For a company that’s all about empowering people through our products, and being a collection of people whose goal in life is to change the world for the better — it doesn’t sit right with me that you have that kind of focus, but you’re not making sure your carbon footprint isn’t poisoning the place,” Cook said.

“Or that you’re not evangelizing moving human rights forward. I think every generation has the responsibility to enlarge the meaning of human rights. I do view that a CEO today of Apple should participate in the national discussion on these type of issues.”

Steve_Jobs_2007
Tim Cook was as shocked by Steve Jobs’ death as anyone else. Maybe more.
Photo: Ben Stanfield/Flickr CC

Cook talked with Anderson Cooper about coming out as gay

Cook is immensely private, which is why it was a surprise when he came out as gay in October 2014 in a history-making essay for BusinessWeek.

As he reveals, however, this move had been a long time in the making — and he sought advice from another prominent LGBT public figure along the way.

“It had been planned for quite a long time,” Cook said. “It was not something that was done in a moment, by any means. It was probably a year. Just thinking through what to say, how to say it, where to say it, how to do that in a way that advanced what I was trying to do.

“I wanted it to be in a business [publication]. That’s what I know, that’s who I am. There was a lot of work there. I visited people. I talked to Anderson Cooper at length — multiple times. Because I thought that the way that he handled his announcement was really classy. I was getting advice from people who I thought were really great people who had really deeply thought about it.”

Apple is still pretty darn secretive

Asking Tim Cook about the Apple Car or a future iPhone always elicits a standard closed answer, but Cook — who once said, “We believe in saying no to thousands of projects” — won’t even talk about the projects Apple doesn’t want to do. (Although there are apparently some big ones.)

“I don’t know if I want to do that, because it gives competition some heads-up about things,” he said. “But be assured that we have. More than one. Because the wonderful thing about Apple is there are many ideas about doing things. We have resources to do a few, but you can only do a few things deep and well, and so you have to say no and have debates about what things are in versus out. So more than one big thing has left the page.”

money
Tim Cook says Apple is no tax dodger.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Hiring Apple’s previous senior vice president of retail was a ‘screw-up’

The 2012 hiring of former Dixons CEO John Browett as Apple’s senior vice president of retail didn’t last too long — despite him picking up $60 million in stock as part of his welcoming gift. And Cook now obviously regrets it.

“I hired the wrong person for retail [former Dixons CEO John Browett] initially,” Cook said. “That was clearly a screw-up. I’m not saying anything bad about him. He didn’t fit here culturally is a good way to describe it. We all talked to him, and I made the final decision, and it was wrong. We fairly quickly recognized it and made a change. And I’m proud we did that.”

Being CEO of Apple is a pretty lonely job

“The adage that it’s lonely — the CEO job is lonely — is accurate in a lot of ways,” Cook said. “I’m not looking for any sympathy. You have to recognize that you have blind spots. We all do. Blind spots move, and you want to not just have really bright people around you, but people who will push on you and people to bring out the best in you. People that amplify whatever you’re good at. And then also the people who plug the parts that you’re not and may never be.”

Apple’s no tax dodger

“We are the largest taxpayer in the United States,” Cook said. “And so we’re not a tax dodger. We pay our share and then some. We don’t have these big loopholes that other people talk about. The only kind of major tax credit that we get is the R&D tax credit, which is available to all companies in the United States. That’s important to know.

“The second thing I would point out is we have money internationally because we have two-thirds of our business there. So we earn money internationally. We didn’t look for a tax haven or something to put it somewhere. We sell a lot of product everywhere. And we want to bring it back [to the U.S.], and we’ve been very honest and straightforward about that.”

I’d highly recommend checking out the rest of the interview, which goes into far more detail about many of these topics. You can do so at the link below.

Source: Washington Post