Who Is Tim Cook and Can He Truly Replace Steve Jobs?

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With news of Steve Jobs’ resignation from Apple, interim CEO Tim Cook now finds himself behind the wheel of the most valuable computer company in the world. Cook’s been deeply entrenched within Apple for well over a decade, so the company is seemingly in good hands.

(PHOTOS: The Long, Extraordinary Career of Steve Jobs) 

But is Cook the next Steve Jobs? That remains to be seen. Cook’s own answer to the question of whether he could replace Steve Jobs is simply:

“No. He’s irreplaceable.”

That’s what he said during an interview with Fortune back in 2008—and he’s right. However, Apple’s got enough momentum going right now that it may not need another Steve Jobs in order to continue growing (in the short term, at least). Here’s a look at Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO.

Who Is Tim Cook?

Tim Cook grew up in Robertsdale, Alabama and attended Auburn University, where he received a degree in Industrial Engineering in 1982, followed by an MBA from Duke in 1988. Prior to joining Apple, Cook spent 12 years at IBM before being hired by Compaq as a vice president.

His stint at Compaq lasted just six short months before Cook joined Apple in 1998, hired personally by Steve Jobs “to streamline the company’s jumbled manufacturing and distribution operations,” according to a 2009 TIME profile. Cook was promoted to Apple COO in 2007.

Like Steve Jobs, Cook takes $1 in yearly salary. He reportedly received a $5 million bonus last year as a thank-you for filling in for Jobs during 2009, plus another $52.3 million in stock. Cook also sits on the board at Nike.

Cook’s appointment as Jobs’ successor comes as little surprise based on his past experience of filling in during Jobs’ previous medical leaves, and the fact that he’s been handling day to day operations at Apple since 2005.

An Apple GM told Wired in 2009:

“Tim runs Apple, and he has been running Apple for a long time now. Steve is the face of the company and very involved with product development but Tim is the guy who takes all those designs and turns it into a big pile of cash.”

Apple’s Performance Under Cook’s Watch

If we examine what’s happened to Apple’s stock whenever Tim Cook has filled in for Steve Jobs in the past, a pattern begins to emerge.

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In 2004: Cook filled in for Jobs in August and September. On August 6, 2004, Apple’s stock was trading at $14.89 per share—its lowest level in months. By October 8, 2004, the stock was trading at $19.53 per share. By the end of the year, with Jobs back, the stock was at $32.20 per share.

In 2009: Cook filled in for Jobs from mid-January until the end of June. On January 16, 2009, Apple’s stock was again at its lowest level in months: $82.33 per share. By July 2, 2009, the stock was trading at $140.02 per share. Apple finished out the year at $210.73 per share.

(LIST: Top 10 Apple Moments)

2011: Jobs announced he was going on a medical leave of absence on January 17, with Apple stock hovering at around $340 per share. By January 21, the stock dipped to one of its lowest levels of the year at around $332 (the lowest 2011 level was $315 on June 20). The stock also hit its all-time highest on July 26 ($403). Though Cook has been handling daily operations at Apple pretty much all year, Jobs has made two high-profile product announcement appearances this year—Apple’s developer conference keynote in early June and the unveiling of the iPad 2 in March.

So Steve Jobs appears to have a positive affect on Apple stock while he’s in charge (or when he comes back from a leave of absence) and a negative affect on the stock when he initially goes on a leave of absence. But under Cook’s watch this year, Apple has become the most valuable company in the world and seen its stock price at all-time high levels.

Again, “Tim is the guy who takes all those designs and turns it into a big pile of cash.” Apple loses some definite intangibles as Jobs steps down—no doubt about it. But I’d argue that the company finds itself in some of most capable hands around with Tim Cook running things. Short term, it’ll be just fine. Long term, well, that’s what’ll be most interesting to watch.

MORE: End of an Era: Apple’s Steve Jobs Steps Down, Tim Cook Steps Up

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