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10 Years of Power 100: Tim Cook

Worth takes a look back at the CEO of Apple’s path to power, the power play that landed him at the top of 2011’s Power 100 list and where he is now.

Power 100 Tim Cook Tim Cook. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images. Graphic by Amy Petriello

The CEO of Apple topped the Power 100 list in 2011. Here, Worth looks back at Tim Cook’s path to power, the power play that landed him in the top spot and where he is now.

What We Said Then

Path to Power: Born in Alabama in 1960, Cook earned an engineering degree from Auburn and an MBA from Duke. Starting in 1982, he spent a dozen years working at IBM, then moved to Intelligent Electronics in 1994 and Compaq in 1997. Steve Jobs poached Cook from Compaq after just six months to revamp and oversee manufacturing, distribution and supply operations. While not a design genius like Jobs, Cook is credited with bringing enormous efficiencies and cost reductions to Apple, and his Jobs-like obsession with perfection has helped Apple become an immensely lucrative company. He became Apple’s COO in 2007 and CEO in August, when Jobs resigned the position.

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Power Play: Imagine the pressure. Though some say that Cook has already been running Apple for years because of Jobs’ fight against cancer, an official assumption of the reins must still be daunting. Apple, which was for a brief while in August the country’s most valuable company, may well be its most important. It is one part of the American economy that, unquestionably, works. Apple employs (more and more) people; it’s building a massive, future-minded new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.; its products are beautiful and brilliant, functional and inspiring. The Chinese—our economic heirs apparent—want Apple products so badly that entrepreneurs are building wholly fake Apple stores in which to sell them. And Apple is accomplishing all of these things at a time when the United States is suffering through a prolonged period of economic ennui. Apple reminds us that, for all the efforts of government and the Federal Reserve and Wall Street banks, it will be American entrepreneurship that gets the country back on its feet again. Good luck, Mr. Cook. For what it’s worth, we’re rooting for you.

Where Cook is Now

There has been a slowdown in iPhone sales and increased competition from companies like Samsung and Huawei, but Apple—and Cook—remains a formidable economic force. He introduced big-screen phones and Face ID; struck a deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier; and is making moves into services like TV, music streaming and gaming and even plans to launch the Apple Card credit card this summer. The company has a staggering $225 billion cash on hand. And Cook’s impact goes to the heart of some of business’ most pressing issues today: privacy and inclusion. Cook, who became the first major CEO to come out as gay, told a 2014 shareholder meeting, “We want to leave the world better than we found it.”

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