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Though highly regarded as a business-operations maestro, few people outside of Apple have any sense of whether Tim Cook is indeed the right choice for the job, leave alone replacing the king of the Silicon Valley! Tim Cook landed at Apple in 1998 from Compaq Computer, bringing with him a decade and a half of experience in the tech industry, having worked with IBM for 12 years.
He joined Apple in 1998 as senior vice president of operations, overseeing computer manufacturing. Cook was subsequently promoted to chief of worldwide sales and operations of the Macintosh division. He pushed the company’s parts suppliers to physically locate next to the assembly plants for Apple products. This allowed the suppliers to keep the parts in their inventory rather than that of Apple. By the end of the company’s fiscal 1998 on Sept. 25 of that year, it held six days of inventory valued at $78 million, down from 31 days, valued at $437 million, the year earlier. Mr. Cook helped squeeze those figures down even further by the end of 1999, when inventory levels dropped to two days’ worth, or about $20 million. In January 2007, Cook was promoted to COO.
Almost as soon as he entered the fray, Cook knew he had to pull the company out of the manufacturing shambles that it was in. He shut factories and warehouses around the world and instead established relationships with contract manufacturers. As a result, Apple’s inventory, measured by the amount of time it sat on the company’s balance sheet, quickly fell from months to days. Inventory, Cook has said, is “fundamentally evil.”
After taking over the reins, Cook announced in an email to employees that Apple would not “change,” praising Steve Jobs’ leadership and management style. Another e-mail from him recently directly acknowledged the employees’ role in record earnings— Cook sent a message loaded with symbolism.
At an internal meeting in January, Cook announced Apple’s discount program wherein employees will receive $500 off new Mac computers, and $250 off iPads as a reward for Apple’s recent blockbuster quarter. The program will begin in June, and to qualify, employees must have 90 days’ tenure working for the company.
The employee discount program isn’t the first example of hardware generosity on Apple’s part. On June 28, 2007, Steve Jobs announced during an all-hands meeting that every employee with one year’s tenure would receive a new iPhone. It was an impressive gesture that Engadget estimated to cost Apple $12 million.
This was also one of the few acts of gifting that Jobs ever bestowed upon the workforce, or even the world at large. Indeed, in the days following his death last October, a small but significant number of news outlets took Jobs to task for his apparent lack of interest in philanthropy, including the closure of Apple’s philanthropic efforts when he returned to the company in 1997.
But the grander Cook gesture occurred early last September, after Cook took over as CEO, but before Jobs passed away. Cook announced that Apple would match charitable donations made by Apple employees, up to $10,000 per year for full-time workers in the U.S. The move spoke volumes about Tim Cook’s management style, and what a Tim Cook administration might mean for not only philanthropy, but also corporate “openness” in general.
A renowned workaholic, Mr. Cook, who is turning 52 this year, devotes much of his time away from the office to sports and exercise. He’s an avid cyclist, known to quote Lance Armstrong in meetings from time to time, and is typically at the gym by 5 a.m., close associates claim. Mr. Cook’s office and home are flooded with memorabilia for the Auburn Tigers, his alma mater’s football team.
Mr. Cook is analytical and detail-oriented, with a memory strong enough that he rarely consults notes when recalling minutiae from past meetings. In addition to his vast responsibilities at Apple Inc., Cook also sits on the board of directors for Nike.