Today in Apple history: Tim Cook becomes Apple’s chief operating officer

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Tim Cook was on his way to the top spot at Apple.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

October 14: Today in Apple history October 14, 2005: Tim Cook takes the reins as Apple’s chief operating officer, continuing an upward climb through the company’s ranks that will make him CEO less than six years later.

“Tim and I have worked together for over seven years now, and I am looking forward to working even more closely with him to help Apple reach some exciting goals during the coming years,” Steve Jobs says in a statement.

Tim Cook’s rise to the top at Apple

Prior to his promotion, Cook served as Apple’s vice president of worldwide sales and operations since 2002. Before that, he worked as Apple’s senior vice president of operations, joining the company in 1998 after a short stint at Compaq.

Cook’s expertise was operations and logistics. He loved nothing more than whittling down on-hand inventory. “You kind of want to manage it like you’re in the dairy business,” he once said. “If it gets past its freshness date, you have a problem.”

Within months of joining of Apple, Cook slashed Apple’s on-hand inventory from $400 million the previous December to just $78 million. He could be brutal with suppliers and people working under him. But he was respected and well-liked for his rational approach to problems.

With his October 14 promotion to COO, Cook became responsible for all of Apple’s worldwide sales and operations. He also led the company’s Macintosh division and worked with Jobs and other Cupertino execs “to lead Apple’s overall business.”

Tim Cook: A different kind of Apple exec

At this point, Cook’s future leadership of Apple wasn’t guaranteed. However, he was on a very short list of people likely to be considered. His promotion to COO certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though. He had worked closely with Jobs for years.

What was interesting about Cook was how much he differed from many others in Apple’s upper echelons. He was understated compared to Jobs and the likes of Scott Forstall, a senior vice president who dressed like the Apple CEO and even drove the same model silver Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG as his boss.

But Cook was like Jobs where it mattered. He was a hard-nosed negotiator, tireless in his dedication to Apple and obsessive about achieving feats most other companies viewed as impossible.

It certainly paid off.