Profile

Apple CEO Tim Cook: the supply chain guy who became ‘Christ 2.0’

The 60-year-old is celebrating a decade as boss of the tech giant

When Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs as Apple CEO on 24 August 2011, “it was akin to following on from Jesus Christ”, said Matthew Drummond in the Australian Financial Review.

The iPhone had been dubbed the “Jesus phone” after first being unveiled in 2007, because of the “religious-like fervour it stirred up in fans”. And Jobs was depicted as Christ on a 2010 cover of The Economist under the headline “The book of Jobs” following the launch of the iPad. 

In the wake of Jobs’ death at the age of 56 in October 2011, the Apple co-founder was described as a “visionary” by The New York Times and a “charismatic mastermind” by CNet

As Apple’s long-time chief operating officer, Cook had “prepared for years for the thankless task” of stepping into Jobs’s shoes, The Telegraph reports. But Jobs never had any doubts about his replacement. 

“Steve told me that he trusted Tim absolutely,” said Mike Slade, Jobs’s former strategic adviser. “I was like, ‘that’s good enough for me’. That’s about as high a compliment as you could get from Steve Jobs.”

Tim Cook and Steve Jobs in 2007 

Tim Cook and Steve Jobs in 2007 

David Paul Morris/Getty Images

World’s most valuable brand 

An unnamed former Apple executive told the Australian Financial Review that “some of the magic did die with Steve” and that there was “more excitement, more intrigue” under Jobs’ stewardship. And “questions about Apple’s ability to produce the next hit product” have “never quite gone away” during Cook’s decade in charge, The Telegraph added.

Few could argue about Cook’s success in monetary terms, however.

Ten years ago, Apple’s annual sales were $108bn (£79bn). This year sales are forecast to be about $370bn (£270.6m). Named the world’s most valuable brand in 2020 by Forbes, the Cupertino-based company today has a market cap value of $2.45trn (£1.79trn), according to Yahoo! Finance

Many people said there was “no chance, this supply chain guy hasn’t got the charisma”, Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, told The Telegraph. “It was seen as a safe, but rather conservative bet. ”

But “if you look at what he’s delivered in his tenure, it is nothing short of astonishing”, said Wood.

Five lines of success

As of January, a billion iPhones were in use around the world - a figure that sceptics said suggested the company was too reliant on its flagship device. However, after ten years as CEO, Cook has “quietened the naysayers”, said the Australian Financial Review

Apple’s results are “a picture of how to make the complex seem simple: you can see pretty much the entire business on just five lines”. In the 2020 financial year, iPhone revenues were $138bn (£109bn), Mac computers $29bn (£21.2bn), iPad $24bn (£17.5bn), and “wearables, home and accessories” $31bn (£22.6bn). 

And services, which includes iTunes and iCloud, was the second-biggest revenue generator overall worth $54bn. When he took over in 2011, services generated just $9bn. Indeed, the growth in services and the existence of the wearables division is “the legacy of Tim Cook”, the newspaper added. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The next Cook - or Jobs?

Now a decade into Cook’s leadership, the 60-year-old’s departure “does not seem imminent”, said The Telegraph. “But in keeping with his meticulous running of the company, there is undoubtedly a plan.” 

If Cook did move on tomorrow, “look no further” than chief operating officer Jeff Williams, said Bloomberg. Seen as the “heir apparent”, Williams is pragmatic, and an operations-focused executive like Cook rather than a product visionary like Jobs. “With the company’s decade of success under Cook, it’s unlikely the board would want to shift away from this proven formula,” the business news site argues.

However, “a long-time business acquaintance suggests that Apple may seek to return to putting a product genius in charge, rather than somebody similar to Cook”, according to The Telegraph.

“Perhaps they need another visionary,” the unnamed insider said.

Ultimately, the paper concludes, “the fact that succeeding Cook could be more difficult than replacing Jobs may be a testament to his success, but it will not make doing so any easier”.

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