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Apple is setting the stage for the iPhone maker’s next generation

Published Sep 11th, 2020 5:45PM EDT
Tim Cook
Image: Mandel Ngan - Pool via CNP/MEGA

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  • Apple has started grooming the next generation of leaders to ascend to the top leadership ranks at the company, including reportedly settling on at least an immediate replacement for Apple CEO Tim Cook if he were to retire suddenly.
  • This succession planning inside the iPhone maker is the subject of a fascinating new Bloomberg piece from well-sourced Apple reporter Mark Gurman.
  • Reportedly, Apple is eyeing current COO Jeff Williams to step in as CEO if Cook were to retire suddenly, though Cook has no plans to step down anytime soon.

On Friday afternoon, Apple CEO Tim Cook tapped out a new tweet that served a couple of purposes — one of which was to announce that the iPhone maker is sending more money to the fire recovery effort on the West Coast. Also, after acknowledging the pain of those who “have lost so much” in the devastating fires, Cook added a note of ecological concern: “The fires are an urgent reminder that we must act together to protect the planet we all share.”

You could argue the tweet is a decent start at understanding the Cook era at Apple in microcosm, where the company more so than ever in its history wants its corporate brand to be about not just expensive, lust-inducing tech gadgets but also a heightened move toward philanthropy and to social causes like climate change. These are the kinds of Tim Cook-mandated changes that have coincided with his leadership of the post-Steve Jobs version of Apple — and, heck, even the fact that Cook tweets is emblematic of the difference between his leadership and that of Apple’s visionary co-founder.

I was told once about how, when Jobs visited the offices of Flipboard back in its early days, he made it clear he didn’t really get Twitter, but that he loved Flipboard as a news consumption app.

At any rate, we bring all this up because Cook is now beginning his 10th year in the corner office at Apple, a time that coincides with Apple reportedly grooming the next generation of leaders who will populate its upper ranks — along with the fact that a guessing game has gotten under way in earnest about who will eventually replace Cook when the time comes.

CEOs tend to have more than one succession strategy mapped out, both the ideal longer-term solution as well as one that would kick in if some emergency took place that forced a change at the top. A new Bloomberg report from well-sourced Apple reporter Mark Gurman suggests that Apple is apparently thinking about current Apple COO Jeff Williams for the latter scenario, noting that Williams is ready to take over if Cook were to leave the CEO position anytime soon, in an immediate fashion. That makes sense, because it was then-COO Tim Cook who Jobs tapped to fill in as a temporary CEO during his medical absences and then to take over as CEO for good.

Williams is also cut from the same corporate cloth as Cook, in that he’s an operations-centric executive rather than a product and design-focused leader in the mold of Jobs. During his time at Apple so far, Williams (who’s been referred to before in Gurman’s reporting as a kind of heir apparent) has overseen Apple health initiatives as well as the development of Apple Watch.

Gurman’s piece is a fascinating read, because it also goes much deeper than Apple’s future CEO, also speculating that Apple’s new Vice President of iPhone marketing Kaiann Drance is likely to eventually be elevated to the job of Apple’s overall marketing chief.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.