It was a corporate transition unlike any other when Tim Cook took over as Apple’s CEO. He stepped out from under the shadow of one of America’s most well-known CEOs to take the helm of one of the world’s most powerful tech companies, despite some doubts about how much more successful it could be.
Cook now leads the world’s most valuable company, whether it’s in technology or not, and it’s still one of the most influential. Its devices are used by over a billion people around the world, and its software platforms have helped tens of millions of developers build businesses.
Cook succeeded Steve Jobs as CEO on August 24, 2011, just two months before the Apple founder died. Apple’s (AAPL) market capitalization has increased by nearly 600% to nearly $2.5 trillion since then, and its annual revenue has more than doubled.
If Jobs was known for his ability to create groundbreaking devices that redefined consumers’ experiences with technology, Cook may become known for expanding the Apple ecosystem — building a suite of subscription services and other hardware products that complement the core iPhone business Jobs launched.
Apple has transformed from a premium device manufacturer to a massive, multifaceted corporation with businesses ranging from payment services to an Oscar-nominated television and film production studio under Cook’s leadership. He’s been in charge of over 100 acquisitions, including the $3 billion Beats purchase in 2014 and the $1 billion purchase of Intel’s smartphone modem business in 2019.
Cook came into Apple with a reputation for being a demanding boss, and he’s now in charge at a time when tech workers are becoming more vocal about social issues. (Cook has been involved in LGBTQ+ rights advocacy since 2014, when he became one of the first major CEOs to come out as gay.)
Cook was also in charge of major corporate gaffes like “Batterygate” and allegations of poor labor conditions at Apple’s suppliers’ factories. A recent announcement regarding a new child protection initiative also devolved into an unanticipated public relations disaster. And, over the years, he has navigated a slew of external threats to Apple’s business, including recent spats with the Trump administration, the US-China trade war, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cook hasn’t launched another product as successful or disruptive as the iPhone, but he’s found other ways to keep Apple afloat.
“It’s possibly the most successful handoff from strength to strength in corporate history,” Mike Bailey, director of research at FBB Capital Partners, said of the transition from Jobs to Cook. “Apple, frankly, needed a cheerleader and a politician, possibly more than a micromanaging, stressed out founder.”
Bailey added: “You’re maintaining the empire, as opposed to building one.”