Apple in His Own Image
CEO Tim Cook Starts Charitable Program, Emails the ‘Team’
Tim Cook promised that Apple Inc. wouldn’t change when he took over the company’s helm from Steve Jobs in August.
But the low-key Mr. Cook has already put his operational mark on Apple in ways that suggest the company won’t be entirely the same as under its intense and tempestuous co-founder.
Mr. Cook has also displayed some different corporate philosophies from Mr. Jobs. The new CEO recently announced a charitable program promising Apple would match employee donations to non-profits of up to $10,000 a year, starting in the U.S. In contrast, Mr. Jobs said at a company off-site meeting last year that he was opposed to giving money away, according to a person who attended.
Much about the technology giant hasn’t changed and isn’t expected to. Mr. Cook, an Apple veteran who became chief operating officer in 2005 and who ran the company during Mr. Jobs’s multiple medical leaves, isn’t a fan of reorganizations, said a person familiar with the matter. He is also a fierce believer in Apple’s culture, which prizes product development and design and preaches intense secrecy.
But the moves Mr. Cook has made since he officially took over the CEO title on Aug. 24 provide signs of how he will seek to run Apple in the years ahead, imposing more discipline on a place that for years was guided by Mr. Jobs’s gut.
An Apple spokesman declined to comment and said Mr. Cook wasn’t available for an interview.
A supply chain whiz fluent in sales charts and forecasts, Mr. Cook is a disciplined manager and a contrast to Mr. Jobs, who had little patience for management matters, according to friends and colleagues of both.
Mr. Cook is accessible, and over the years served as a sounding board for executives who wanted advice on approaching Mr. Jobs, former Apple employees say.
In recent weeks, Mr. Cook has restructured Apple’s big education division that deviated from the company’s overall organizational structure, according to a person familiar with the matter.
For years, that business had operated fairly independently. Mr. Cook split the business into a sales arm and a marketing arm and incorporated the groups into their respective company-wide divisions, said this person.
The move streamlined Apple’s structure and increased the responsibilities of senior vice president of world-wide product marketing Phil Schiller and John Brandon, a vice president who oversees many of Apple’s sales channels and has worked closely with Mr. Cook for years, this person said. Apple’s education head John Couch, who had reported to Mr. Cook, now reports to Mr. Schiller.
Within days of taking over, Mr. Cook also promoted vice president Eddy Cue to Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, bumping up the title of one of the company’s most visible executives.
Former executives and people close to Apple say they also expect Mr. Cook to be more open with shareholders and customers than Mr. Jobs, citing Mr. Cook’s willingness to meet fairly regularly with investors over the years.
“Steve thought he had all the answers,” said Toni Sacconaghi, a research analyst who covers Apple for Sanford Bernstein & Co. “I am not sure Tim thinks he has all the answers.” Mr. Sacconaghi also describes Mr. Cook as “surprisingly candid” about parts of the company, such as its iPhone expansion strategy.
One area people expect Mr. Cook to eventually focus on is what to do with Apple’s $81.6 billion in cash and cash equivalents. Mr. Jobs was opposed to stock buybacks, according to former Apple executives.
But Mr. Cook seems open to more traditional options for Apple’s cash hoard, such as dividends or a buyback, say people who have discussed the matter with Apple executives.
On the company’s fiscal fourth quarter earnings call last month, Mr. Cook said, “I’m not religious about holding cash or not holding it.”
Any such moves would be up to all of Apple’s directors, of which Mr. Cook is one, and wouldn’t likely happen soon, according to one of these people.
One other difference with Mr. Jobs: Mr. Cook is “not a product guy,” his colleagues and friends often say. That’s a sentiment Mr. Jobs himself echoed to author Walter Isaacson in a recently published biography.
People close to the company question whether Mr. Cook can continue the string of hits that have made Apple the world’s largest technology company.
In the past, Mr. Cook once asked an employee briefing him on a new service, “tell me again how this helps me sell more phones,” according to this person.