Apple just became a trillion dollar company – but who is the man at the helm?
Tim Cook is at once one of the most visible and anonymous individuals on the planet. Ask anyone to reel off some facts about him and they’d most likely be dumbfounded.
The 57-year-old makes headlines as the CEO of AppleInc. – the world’s first trillion dollar company. But he’s much more than that; he’s the first Chief Executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly identify as gay; he has promised to donate his entire stock fortune (in the region of $US120 million) to charity; and he once offered an ailing Steve Jobs part of his liver.
We’ve done a deep dive into Cook’s past, education, career and other endeavours to bring you everything you need to know about about the incumbent Apple CEO.
Who is Tim Cook?
Tim Cook was born in the town of Mobile, Alabama to Donald, a shipyard worker, and Geraldine, a pharmacy employee. He attended Robertsdale High School, going on to earn a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from Auburn University in 1982.
Cook later went on to claim his MBA from Duke University, graduating from the prestigious university’s Fuqua School of Business in 1988.
For 12 years, Cook climbed the ranks of IBM’s personal computer business, at his peak serving the director of the North American fulfilment. The subsequent years saw Cook flitting around high-end tech jobs; he served as Chief Operating Officer of the computer reseller division of Intelligent Electronics, as well as Vice President for Corporate Materials at Compaq for six months.
It wasn’t until 1998 that Cook was approached by Steve Jobs, who asked him to join Apple. Cook is quoted as saying, “no more than five minutes into my initial interview with Steve, I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple”.
Tim Cook: Apple
Cook began as Senior Vice President for worldwide operations. While in this role, he was quoted as saying, “You kind of want to manage it like you’re in the dairy business. If it gets past its freshness date, you have a problem”.
Cook was later promoted to lead operations in 2007, and, when Steve Jobs had to step down owing to his ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer, Cook was named new CEO of Apple on 24 August 2011. Six weeks later, Jobs died due to complications from his cancer.
Since then, Cook has served as the company’s CEO, wielding a leadership style that’s focused on inclusivity and acceptance. Back in 2012, Forbes reported that Cook had been “weeding out people with disagreeable personalities [...] Cook wants a culture of harmony”.
Unsavoury sentiment is certainly something the CEO has tried to clamp down on as of late; when the company reached a trillion dollar valuation in August 2018, Cook sent out an employee memo asserting that the firm’s worth extended beyond its financial value.
Cook asserted that, although the occasion was a “significant milestone”, it is not the most important measure of the company’s success: “Steve founded Apple on the belief that the power of human creativity can solve even the biggest challenges -- and that the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
“In today's world, our mission is more important than ever. Our products not only create moments of surprise and delight, they empower people all around the globe to enrich their lives and the lives of others.”
Tim Cook: Personal life
In 2014, Cook became the first Chief Executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly identify as gay, in an editorial for Bloomberg Business. Cook asserted, “I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
Before publicly identifying as gay, Cook was an active supporter of LGBT rights; in October 2014 he received elected membership to the Alabama Academy of Honour – the highest honour the state (where Cook was born) awards its citizens.
Cook is also a political advocate, and donated to Obama’s 2008 campaign. In October 2016, it was reported that Hillary Clinton’s team considered Cook as a vice presidential candidate, an idea which did not come to fruition.
Meanwhile, Cook’s 4.30am starts may alienate people, but his leadership style, which focuses on “people, strategy and execution”, certainly won’t. “If you get those things right, “ he once asserted, “the world is a great place.”
Under Cook’s stewardship, the firm has increased its donations to charity, something Cook has vowed to do himself; the CEO plans to donate his stock fortune in its entirety (thought to be in the region of $US120 million) to charity.
His charitable giving took a different turn when, in 2009, Cook offered to give Steve Jobs a portion of his liver, in a bid to fight the latter’s illness. The pair shared a rare blood type, making the life-saving transplant feasible. Cook remembers that Jobs’ immediate response was an emphatic “no”: “I’ll never let you do that. I’ll never do that,” he is reported to have said.
So there you have it. A roundup of the enigmatic Apple CEO, Tim Cook. With an aptitude for philanthropy, social justice and an undying respect for the late (and wildly revered) Steve Jobs, Cook might just be the people’s tech giant.