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Updated: October 6, 2011 08:38 IST

Tim Cook, Apple’s logistics king, moves into the limelight

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Tim Cook
AP Tim Cook

Tim Cook, the man tapped by Steve Jobs to replace him as Apple chief executive, has some big shoes to fill.

According to one company insider, it’s like trying to follow The Beatles at a rock concert. But Jobs at least has no doubt that the 50—year—old Alabama native is up to the task.

“As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple,” Jobs wrote in his resignation letter to the board of directors.

Few outside the circle of Apple watchers will have heard of Cook, much less have confidence in him taking the helm of the world’s most valuable technology company.

At first glance, Cook seems a strange choice to follow the maverick leadership of Jobs, whose mercurial charm, impeccable marketing instincts and unmatched charisma made him a tech superstar from the day he founded Apple.

Cook by contrast is famously shy about speaking in public, is known as a nuts—and—bolts logistics man and seems ill—suited to fill the role of evangelist—in—chief, which was such a major part of Jobs’ function.

He grew up in the small town of Robertsdale, Alabama, the son of a retired shipyard worker, and earned an MBA from Duke University after getting a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. Before moving to Apple in 1998 as senior vice president of operations, Cook had worked for 12 years in PC logistics at IBM and was a vice president at Compaq.

He won early kudos at Apple for fixing its manufacturing flaws, closing the company’s factories and shifting production to contract manufacturers. As his successes mounted, he was three times named as Apple’s interim leader when Jobs’ health problems forced him to take medical leave.

Known to be unflappable, calm and quiet, Cook is a workaholic, reportedly shooting off emails at 4:30 in the morning and priding himself on being the first one in and last one out of the office.

According to the tech web site Gizmodo, he was famous at IBM for volunteering to work on Christmas and New Year’s days. Cook is unmarried and though he has never commented on his sexual orientation, Gizmodo called him “the most powerful gay man in Silicon Valley.”

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