Finding Fortune: Tim Cook

4.15.2014

By Sureme Laster Bey

The soft-spoken tech guru might be the most powerful gay man in the world — or at least in the digital hemisphere.

He is the highest paid CEO in the world. He is responsible for some of the most user-friendly, cross-functional and technically advanced products ever created. And 10 years ago, most consumers didn’t even know his name.

Meet Tim Cook, Apple’s no-nonsense CEO whose work ethic and unwavering diligence to perfection have carried the brand to unprecedented heights. His path to fortune started in Mobile, Ala.

Born to blue-collar parents as the middle child of three sons, Cook demonstrated leadership prowess at an early age. He was voted “Most Studious” by his peers, and graduated Salutatorian of his high school class. His academic journey took him from Auburn University to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business where he earned his MBA. Then he put his academic achievements to real-world practice for leading tech firms such as IBM and Compaq. While at Compaq, Cook scored a meeting that would forever change his life: a one-on-one with Steve Jobs, which developed into a lifelong business partnership and friendship.

Cook joined Apple in 1998, first as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations, then moving up the ranks to Executive Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Operations, to Cooperating Operating Officer. Cook made his mark on the firm by helping Apple manufacture products more efficiently, reducing inventory, and shutting down unnecessary factories and warehouses. He brought with him an uncanny vision fused with an unrelenting work ethic.

These attributes proved invaluable to Apple as the health of its iconic leader, Jobs, began to decline. Cook instinctively knew how to keep the entire operation running smoothly. It was no surprise when Jobs resigned as CEO and became Chair of the Board, that Cook was tapped to take the helm. Two months later, Jobs died of complications from pancreatic cancer.

Fortune sometimes goes to those who are brave and adventurous. Sometimes, fortune favors good, old-fashioned hard work and leadership. Stepping into the shoes of Jobs was no easy feat. Despite turmoil and setbacks, Cook has ensured Apple’s place as the world’s leading electronics and software firm.

That’s not to say that Cook is against taking calculated risks. In a recent shareholders meeting, when faced with major opposition by several shareholders, Cook asked them to put their money where the mouths were: believe in his vision for Apple or pull their stock. His statement was met with applause.

It’s unclear what fortune lies ahead for Cook. Apple is notoriously mum on product development, leaving many to wonder what will be the “next big thing” will be. Rumors of an iWatch and iOS8 abound. Time will tell.

Tags: Power 50
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