Back in 2008, Tim Cook was asked about replacing Steve Jobs.
He 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.”
Hailing from Alabama, Tim
Cook graduated from Auburn
University in 1982 with
an engineering degree. He went to work for IBM for the next 12 years before joining
the computer-reseller division of a wholesaler called Intelligent Electronics.
In 1997 he moved to Compaq, but only or six months, when, in early 1998, Steve Jobs
came calling and brought him to Apple.
At Apple he was charged with sorting out the poor
manufacturing, distribution and supply networks. A profile which appeared in Fortune magazine in 2008 related a tale of Cook’s unemotional and demanding
During a meeting he complained about issues in China, saying: This is really bad, someone
should be in China
driving this.” Thirty minutes into the meeting he turned to Sabih Khan
asking: “Why are you still here?”
Khan got up, left the building, drove to San
Francisco airport and booked a one-way flight to China without a
change of clothes. It reflects the obsessive and exacting nature of Cook’s work
ethic according to those who know him. It also shows how he succeeded in improving these networks within Apple.
The major change Cook has made to the company is getting
Apple out of the manufacturing game, closing factories around the world and
instead striking up deals with contract manufacturers.
This lead to a fall in the length of time inventory stayed
on Apple’s balance sheets, down from months to days. Inventory is “fundamentally evil”
according to Cook.
Another major success for Cook was his management of the
transition of Apple’s entire line of computers over to Intel’s processors in 2006,
without too much of a blip in sales.
Shouldering the pressure of being CEO of the second most
valuable company in the world will be lessened for Cook considering that he has been
in this role since January, 2011 and for various periods in the last seven
years as Steve Jobs’ health has suffered.
A tireless worker, he’s known for being first in and last to
leave the office. He begins emailing executives at 4.30am and holds telephone
meetings on a Sunday evening to prepare for the meetings the following morning.
Unlike Jobs he is known for his calm and cool style of management, never
raising his voice.
Unmarried, Cook is intensely private and lives in a rented
house in Palo Alto
and does not have any of the trappings one might expect for a man who holds
around $100 million in Apple stock.
He is a fitness fanatic and enjoys hiking and riding his
bike. Lance Armstrong is an idol and, like Jobs and everyone else at Apple, Cook dresses
in jeans and sneakers.
The future is unknown at the moment, but with Jobs’ blessing Cook is certainly a good bet to continue Apple’s current position as one of the world’s biggest companies.