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By all accounts, Tim Cook is an intensely private person. He’s been getting away with it as Apple’s No. 2 executive, but now that he has been named CEO of one of the world’s most valuable and inventive companies, it’s likely he’ll be thrust into the spotlight routinely whether he likes it or not.
Cook was named Apple’s top executive Wednesday after co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down because, as he put it, “I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO.”
Jobs didn’t mention his health, but he has been dealing with problems associated with pancreatic cancer for at least seven years. Three times he has taken a leave of absence, and three times Cook has filled in for him, so the former COO is no stranger to the top job. Still, he’s not the visionary that Jobs is, and Apple investors and its legions of enthusiasts aren’t inclined to treat him as if he were.
Hence, whenever there are rumors that Jobs is ill again, Apple loses billions in value. When news broke Wednesday that Jobs was handing the reins over to Cook, the stock sunk 6 percent in after-hours trading, temporarily knocking about $18 billion off of Apple’s market cap.
Perhaps it’s an overreaction, because not much is supposed to change under Cook. Upgrades to iPods, iPads, iTunes, AppleTV and other multimedia wizardry that are in the works will continue as if nothing has happened, experts say, especially since Jobs on Wednesday assumed the role of board chairman, so his opinions are likely to matter just as much as they always have.
“Jobs’s departure will have no impact on the business,” Hudson Square Research analyst Daniel Ernst said.
“It doesn’t change much from the past year, even the past three years when Steve Jobs first got sick and other people stepped up,” added Wedbush Securities analyst Scott Sutherland.
Even Steve Wozniak, who founded Apple with Jobs in 1976, expects that the impact of Jobs will be seen for many years whether he is CEO or not. “The quality of the people doesn’t change overnight, neither does the quality of the products,” Wozniak told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday.
And Cook, 50, is a quality executive, as far as Jobs is concerned, which is why he is so well compensated. Last year he made $59 million, mostly through stock grants.
Jobs recruited Cook from Compaq in 1998 to oversee the manufacturing of Mac computers as senior vp for worldwide operations. He first served as temporary CEO in 2004 when Jobs was recovering from pancreatic cancer surgery, and he was named COO three years later.
A lengthy profile of Cook in Fortune magazine in 2008 (which Cook declined to participate in) called him a “workaholic” who typically began his e-mail sessions at 4:30 a.m. and could be brutal in meetings, where he’d ask executives questions he knew they couldn’t answer before grilling them with equally impossible follow-up queries.
His hobbies are cycling, hiking and exercising. He serves on the board of Nike, and Out magazine recently put him at the top of its LGBT Power 50 list, ahead of Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow.
“While it is Jobs’s prescience that has kept the Cupertino, Calif., company at the cutting edge of technology, it’s Cook who made sure Apple could deliver as demand rocketed,” Out said in its Power 50 profile.
An Alabama native, Cook earned a B.S. in industrial engineering from Auburn University — he’s a rabid Auburn Tigers football fan — and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
His office, according to the Fortune profile, is decorated with Auburn paraphernalia and photos of Bobby Kennedy and Bob Dylan.
In recent years, Cook has taken to running Apple’s conference calls to discuss its quarterly earnings because Jobs rarely makes an appearance, so analysts are very familiar with the new CEO.
“Tim is more behind-the-scenes, more quiet,” says Sutherland, while “Steve has sometimes downright antagonized competitors.”
“Cool, calm, and never, ever raises his voice,” is how Fortune put it, and whose “stamina is stuff of legend at Apple.” Plus, “He’s essentially been running much of the company for years.”
Georg Szalai in New York contributed to this report.
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