The frontrunners for next Apple CEO: Speculating on Tim Cook's successor

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 7
It should come as no real surprise that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook says he'll "probably" leave the company within the next 10 years, given that the man is 60. But, it does raise the question of who is in line to replace him -- AppleInsider ranks the current best options.




Cook's comments came in an interview with Kara Swisher on her "Sway" podcast for The New York Times. Swisher specifically asked Cook if he would remain at Apple for another decade.

"Ten more years? Probably not," Cook said. "But I can tell you that I feel great right now and the date is not in sight. But ten more years is a long time -- and probably not ten more years."

Since taking over as CEO of Apple in 2011, Cook has led Apple through its most successful stretch ever. While his style is not as flashy, nor are his quips as memorable as company co-founder Steve Jobs, Cook's approach to business and life have become part of Apple's DNA in ways that will outlast his tenure.

Who will take over for Cook is not clear, though there are some frontrunners on the company's executive team. Below, we consider some of the options and why they might (or might not) be good candidates.

As a note before we start -- age is obviously a factor here. Investors on Wall Street -- as well as employees, and consumers -- will want some reassurance that whoever follows Cook is not only capable, but willing and able to captain the ship for an extended period of time. As such, we've included a potential CEO's current age as a factor in how we ranked these.

The top choices: Craig Federighi, Greg "Joz" Joswiak, or Jeff Williams


Federighi, Joswiak and Williams.


Craig Federighi is well liked and personable, he has turned the ship on Apple's software, and his pedigree dates back to NeXT. Apple's 51-year-old Senior Vice President of Software Engineering has the Apple credentials to run the show, which is particularly important at an iconic, personality-driven company.

Almost everything said above about Federighi? The same applies here for Greg "Joz" Joswiak, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. He's been with Apple since 1986, he's well liked inside and outside of the company, and he's a known quantity.

And while his current role is in marketing, Joswiak, 56, has technical chops as well, having previously worked on the Macintosh team and helping to develop the original iPod and iPhone. Like Federighi, he's also a staple at Apple keynotes, and his ascendency to the CEO role wouldn't lead anyone to bat an eye.

Which leads to the third name among our top choices: Jeff Williams. Prior to taking over as CEO, Cook served as Apple's Chief Operating Officer -- a role currently filled by Jeff Williams.

Williams, 58, has been with Apple since 1998 and played a key role in the launch of the first iPhone. He also led the engineering development of the Apple Watch -- a wearable product so far ahead of the competition that Apple has become the largest watchmaker in the world.

Like Federighi and Joswiak, Williams is also a regular at Apple keynotes, as last September he was the one chosen to unveil the Apple Watch Series 6.

Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, but his calm presence, methodical approach, and advocacy for social issues have come to define Apple in the post-Jobs era. Personality and presence matter at Apple, and all three choices here -- Federighi, Joswiak and Williams -- would fit the bill nicely. For any of them to take over for Tim Cook would put investors, staff and company watchers at ease.

If Cook were to leave in 10 years at the age of 70, Federighi would be 61, Joswiak would be 66, and Williams would be 68.

The legacy names: Eddy Cue or Phil Schiller


Cue and Cook.


Both Eddy Cue and Phil Schiller have been part of Apple's senior leadership and in highly visible roles at the company since Steve Jobs was in charge. For either of them to take over would feel like a safe choice with a familiar face.

Cue, who is Apple's Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, oversees all of the company's content businesses, including Apple Music, Apple Pay, and iCloud. He has been with the company since 1989.


Cook, Jobs and Schiller.


Schiller, meanwhile, has taken a step back within Apple. Previously the senior vice president of worldwide marketing, he is now an Apple Fellow, responsible for leading the App Store and Apple Events.

Schiller is the same age as Cook -- 60 -- while Cue is a little bit younger, at 56. Given Schiller's age and his reduced role at Apple, Cue feels like the more likely choice of these two, but still ranks behind Federighi, Joswiak and Williams.

The other senior leadership: Lisa Jackson, Johny Srouji, or John Ternus


Jackson.


While these names may not be at the top of the list in 2021, a lot could change over the next 5 or 10 years before Cook departs.

Lisa Jackson is Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives -- a role that has become very important under Cook's leadership, as evidenced by her continued appearances at Apple keynotes and product launches. She previously served as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before joining Apple in 2013.

At 59, Jackson's age and short tenure with Apple would seem to make her an outsider. But she's also the most visible woman among Apple's leadership, and it's clear that Apple intends to continue promoting diversity within its ranks. Plus her leadership experience could make her a good candidate for the CEO role.


Srouji.


Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, is in charge of the Apple Silicon project, an effort that will lead the way for the next 10 years at Apple. That alone could make him a great candidate to succeed Cook.

Srouji, who is 57, has been with Apple since 2008, which is a little longer than Jackson, but still short of the other names on this list.


Ternus.


Perhaps the strongest candidate in this "third tier" of names is John Ternus, Apple's senior vice president of Hardware Engineering. Newly promoted to the position, he has been with Apple since 2001, overseeing hardware engineering work including every generation and model of iPad, the latest iPhones, and AirPods. Apple's official bio also says he has been "a key leader in the ongoing transition of the Mac to Apple silicon."

Ternus's exact age is unknown, but his LinkedIn profile shows that he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Assuming a normal college path, Ternus is likely in his mid-to-late 40s.

Not on the leadership team, but still at Apple: Dan Riccio


Riccio.


Earlier this year, Apple announced that Dan Riccio, who was in charge of hardware engineering before Ternus took over, was transitioning to a new, secret project within the company. Accordingly, Riccio's name and bio were removed from the Apple leadership page, but it's believed that he continues to play a significant role.

Riccio has been with Apple since 1998, and he was promoted to SVP status alongside Federighi in 2012. At 55, Riccio would be a potential candidate to succeed Cook, but it is unclear whether Apple would want to pull him away from his latest project, which places him further down the list of potential candidates.

The outside choices: Ex-employees, or someone else entirely


Ive.


This seems to be an unlikely approach, but anything is possible, particularly for a publicly traded company that could see pressure from investors to make a splashy hire. Still, Apple's most plausible route would be to hire from within, so the names above seem far more probable.

That said, if Apple were to go for an outsider for its next CEO, it could bring back some familiar names. Top of that list would be former lead designer Jony Ive. Whether or not the retired Ive, who is 54, would even be interested in the role is unknown.


Cook and Ahrendts.


Another to consider is Angela Ahrendts, who was previously senior vice president of retail at Apple. She has CEO experience, leading Burberry from 2006 to 2014. But she's also the same age as Cook, at 60.

Finally, Apple could go entirely outsider and select someone with no history at Apple, which seems incredibly unlikely. Apple's unique culture and storied history suggest that whoever takes over as the next CEO of Apple is probably someone who is currently working there.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 58
    If the Wall Street investors will expect the new incumbent to stay at the helm for an extended period, then that implies to me that the successful candidate will need to be at least 10 years younger than Tim. That would rule out most of the suggested names.
    radarthekatramanpfaffNumNutsronnelijahgFlytrapMisterKit
  • Reply 2 of 58
    jimh2jimh2 Posts: 319member
    Another absurd column regarding Cook’s retirement from Apple. He said he does expect to be at Apple into the next decade. No one knows with any degree of certainty what they will be doing in 5, much less 10 years. To follow up the speculation of Cook’s potential retirement with a list of potential candidates who might be around or willing to take the job should it be offered is speculation on speculation. AI is venturing into National Enquirer territory. 

    I see Ive and Ahrendts as least desirable choices for CEO. Both are fashion oriented with Ahrendts coming from the fashion world and Ive applying fashion to devices without regard for usability, battery life and serviceability. 
    lkruppmuthuk_vanalingamhammeroftruthnadriel
  • Reply 3 of 58
    Why is there a photo of Laureen Powell-Jobs at the start of the article when she is not mentioned in the article (or did I miss it)?
  • Reply 4 of 58
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,441member
    There’s always the current head of Pepsico. 
    🥸
    edited April 7 radarthekatlkruppTRAGronnelijahg
  • Reply 5 of 58
    65026502 Posts: 362member
    jimh2 said:
    Another absurd column regarding Cook’s retirement from Apple. He said he does expect to be at Apple into the next decade. No one knows with any degree of certainty what they will be doing in 5, much less 10 years. To follow up the speculation of Cook’s potential retirement with a list of potential candidates who might be around or willing to take the job should it be offered is speculation on speculation. AI is venturing into National Enquirer territory. 

    I see Ive and Ahrendts as least desirable choices for CEO. Both are fashion oriented with Ahrendts coming from the fashion world and Ive applying fashion to devices without regard for usability, battery life and serviceability. 
    Jeez, relax. "Speculation" is literally in the title of the article. There was nothing wrong with this article.
    nhughesronnelijahgsully54danoxroundaboutnow
  • Reply 6 of 58
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,312moderator
    jimh2 said:
    Another absurd column regarding Cook’s retirement from Apple. He said he does expect to be at Apple into the next decade. No one knows with any degree of certainty what they will be doing in 5, much less 10 years. To follow up the speculation of Cook’s potential retirement with a list of potential candidates who might be around or willing to take the job should it be offered is speculation on speculation. AI is venturing into National Enquirer territory. 

    I see Ive and Ahrendts as least desirable choices for CEO. Both are fashion oriented with Ahrendts coming from the fashion world and Ive applying fashion to devices without regard for usability, battery life and serviceability. 
    Wait, did you just, in a single post, shoot down the whole notion of speculating on the matter and also add your own speculative musing?  Well done.

    Remember, not every article needs to be 100% news or dry analysis.  Sometimes it’s okay to sit back and just have a think.  
    ronnroundaboutnow
  • Reply 7 of 58
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,312moderator
    Ternus would be my pick from among these.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting, in DED history reviewing style, to have an article here about who existed at Apple ten years before Steve ultimately resigned and, setting aside the fact we knew who eventually got the job, who would have been on the list at that time.  Would that be instructive?  Maybe.  Would be fun to look back, at least.  
    randominternetpersonramanpfaffronnsteven n.Beats
  • Reply 8 of 58
    TRAGTRAG Posts: 19member
    Too far off to tell but the Board will have a succession plan. Currently my money would be on Jeff Williams or someone external, moot point this early though.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 9 of 58
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,996member
    I vote for an artificial-intelligence data model of Steve Jobs
    steve_jobsradarthekatBeats
  • Reply 10 of 58
    Where can I place an enormous wager that it'll be anyone other than Jackson or Srouji?  I'll put up $100,000 if someone want to lay $1000 on one of those 2.  In other words, that ain't happening.  

    I did get a chuckle out of "
    Ternus's exact age is unknown."  Very mysterious.  Perhaps he's not of this Earth.
    edited April 7 MisterKit
  • Reply 11 of 58
    If Cook leaves in just five years I'd go with Federighi, but if Cook does the full ten years we'll need someone a bit younger. As was said in a prior comment, the Apple board has a plan. Looking forward to see who they end up going with.
  • Reply 12 of 58
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,332member
    I vote for an artificial-intelligence data model of Steve Jobs
    I'd want proof it can drive Steve's Mercedes without human assistance. 
  • Reply 13 of 58
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,332member
    Pretty sensible take, I'd say. 

    Right now, my personal favorite is Hair Force One. 

    But Ternus seems like a pretty good choice too. 
    nhughesgenovelleradarthekat
  • Reply 14 of 58
    I expect Apple to promote from within. But a good outsider will be T-Mobile’s ex ceo John Legere. 
    Beats
  • Reply 15 of 58
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 827member
    If past is precedent, an important qualification will be the ability to spend years ignoring people who say "Well, (s)he's no Tim Cook!"
    radarthekat
  • Reply 16 of 58
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 827member
    As a corollary to the above, perhaps Cook let slip the comment that he might step down sometime in the next decade just to flip the narrative, so that he can spend a few years being favorably compared to possible successors, instead of always being unfavorably compared to his predecessor.
    radarthekatmuthuk_vanalingamrandominternetpersonlogic2.6
  • Reply 17 of 58
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,996member
    blastdoor said:
    I vote for an artificial-intelligence data model of Steve Jobs
    I'd want proof it can drive Steve's Mercedes without human assistance. 
    It should also be smart enough to trade it in every 6 month to avoid being issued a plate number.
    mobird
  • Reply 18 of 58
    I hope whoever gets it ends the bureaucracy and greediness. Caring about your employees is a first. 
    edited April 7 Beats
  • Reply 19 of 58
    Deirdre O’Brien
    DoctorQTRAGBeats
  • Reply 20 of 58
    mobirdmobird Posts: 528member
    Wow!! How was she overlooked in this article?

    lpaaaapl said:
    Deirdre O’Brien

    lpaaaaplTRAG
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