Last week Apple CEO Tim Cook, 60, was handed five million Apple shares worth $750m as a thank you for 10 years at the helm of the world’s most valuable brand.
So how much is he worth?
About $1.4bn. He’s said to earn a base salary of $3.4m, with an annual bonus of $8m-$12m. But he has no dependents – he came out as gay in 2014 – and plans, eventually, to donate all his wealth to charity. Between 2011 and 2020, he doubled Apple’s revenue: the company’s market value is now $2.5 trillion. As The Economist said this week: “No other chief executive has created more absolute value for shareholders.”
Suddenly that bonus doesn’t look so big. How did he turn Apple into such a cash machine?
By being a ruthless workaholic. In Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, Yukari Iwatani Kane claims Cook is a man with “inhuman stamina” and a “detached management style”. He starts sending emails at 4.30am, is in the office by 6.30am and used to hold Sunday-night staff meetings by phone to prepare for the following week. Apple founder Steve Jobs, who brought Cook on board in 1998, was initially so worried about his lack of social life that he apparently called Cook’s mum to chat about it.
What do his employees think of him?
They struggle to keep up. The average salary at the Apple HQ in Cupertino, California, is about $125,000, but when Cook asked staff in June to return to work for just three days a week from this month, they balked. In a joint letter to their CEO, they said his request neglected their “lived experiences” and cited “reduced spread of pathogens” as a reason to stay at home. Besides, they reminded him, Facebook and Twitter have allowed employees to work from home permanently if they want to.
But didn’t he give them a cool $5bn spaceship office?
Indeed. Before he died, Jobs hired British architects Foster + Partners to design a futuristic Apple campus in Cupertino. But it was Cook, a man evidently partial to a bougie office, who signed off the eye-watering price. Opened in 2017 and more than six times the size of the Frank Gehry-designed Facebook HQ in Palo Alto, it has a moveable four-storey glass wall in the staff restaurant and a $70m wellness centre. The design of the door handles was debated for 18 months, the wooden furniture was crafted from a particular species of maple and the whole circular glass village is surrounded by apricot, olive and apple orchards. There’s no pleasing some millennials.
What’s Cook like?
Difficult to say – although his iPhones track our every move, he is obsessively private. He was born in Mobile, Alabama; his father, Donald, was a shipyard worker and his mother, Geraldine, worked at a pharmacy. He graduated from his local high school in 1978 and spent most of his early career working for IBM, then Compaq. When Jobs lured him to his comparatively fledgling company, Cook decided to go with the less well-paid job. “I listened to my intuition… no more than five minutes into my initial interview with Steve, I wanted to throw caution and logic to the wind and join Apple.” He sensed it was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for the creative genius”.
What does he do outside the office?
Hikes in Yosemite National Park, cycles and works out at the gym. Although partial to a beautifully carved office chair, he’s no big spender in his private life. According to Business Insider, he still “buys his underwear at Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale”. Apple picks up the $500,000 annual tab for his personal security and he’s required to fly privately for all personal and business travel. Not content with running Apple, he has a second job sitting on the board of directors for Nike. But he’s not all about making money – he’s also big on giving it away, and has vastly increased Apple’s charitable donations. As far back as 2013, he hired a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency to help Apple develop “renewable energy activities”.
What will his legacy be?
Apart from growing Apple’s stock by more than 1,000%? The man who has more than 100,000 employees and oversees products that keep much of the world running was always good at cutting costs. His first position as senior vice president for worldwide operations saw him close factories and warehouses, replacing them with contract manufacturers that reduced the company’s inventory from months to days. He is also clever at snapping up the competition – over the past six years Apple has bought a small business every few weeks. Some of the bigger buys have included Beats Electronics for $3bn, Shazam for $400m and a $1bn stake in the Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing. Cook has been vocal about reform of international and domestic surveillance, cybersecurity, American manufacturing and environmental preservation.
Fascinating. Any other interesting facts we should know?
In 2009 he offered a portion of his liver to Jobs. The two men shared a rare blood type and, as his boss was suffering from cancer, Cook thought it might be helpful. Jobs yelled back: “I’ll never let you do that. I’ll never do that.” Also, when he was 36, Cook was misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Although he turned out to be fine, it inspired his fixation with health and fitness, as well as his interest in donating to charity.
Who’ll take over from him?
He’s not going anywhere until 2025, when he’s due another million Apple shares. Insiders believe Cook wants to stick around for one more big new product category, likely to be augmented reality glasses rather than a car. (That’s even further out.) Bloomberg recently narrowed his replacement field down to four: chief operating officer Jeff Williams, senior VP Greg Joswiak, hardware engineering chief John Ternus and retail chief Deirdre O’Brien.
A woman possibly in charge of the world’s top company? That would make a change.