Report: Apple COO Williams Seen as Tim Cook’s ‘Heir Apparent’

Apple  (AAPL) – Get Report has been stepping up its succession planning efforts for Tim Cook and other senior company execs, Bloomberg reports.

Bloomberg notes that Cook, who’s now 59 and has been Apple’s CEO for more than nine years, has “given no indication he’s ready to retire.” However, it also states that COO Jeff Williams is now “seen as the heir apparent” to Cook.

Williams, 57, oversees Apple’s global operations, as well as customer service and support. Over the years, he has also taken on product management responsibilities, assuming oversight of the Apple Watch, Apple’s health efforts and (following Jony Ive’s departure in 2019) Apple’s hardware and software design work.

If Williams was named Cook’s successor, it would arguably be a sign that Apple doesn’t want to disrupt the managerial approach that has worked since Steve Jobs’ departure. Namely, of having the company led by a low-key, operations-oriented exec with a strong attention to detail, as opposed to a brilliant product exec or technical visionary.

In a 2019 profile of Williams, a former Apple exec was quoted as calling the COO “the closest thing at [Apple] to Tim Cook,” who previously served as Apple’s COO under Jobs. Williams was also described as a “modest, disciplined, demanding leader in [Tim Cook’s] style,” albeit while being a “bit more hands-on with product development.”

Along with Cook, Apple is reportedly conducting succession planning for Williams, as well as for other execs such as marketing chief Greg Joswiak, software engineering chief Craig Federighi, services chief Eddy Cue and chip/hardware engineering chief Johny Srouji. Like Cook and Williams, Joswiak, Federighi, Cue and Srouji are in their 50s.

Marketing exec Kaiann Drance, 42, is seen as a likely potential successor to Joswiak, and Peter Stern, a 48-year-old exec involved with several of Apple’s services businesses, is seen as a potential successor to Cue. iPhone operations chief Priya Balasubramaniam, also 48, is reportedly viewed as Williams’ “most likely long-term successor.”

Since Cook was named Apple’s CEO on Aug. 24, 2011, Apple’s stock has delivered an 837% total return, after accounting for dividends. From fiscal 2011 (ended in Sep. 2011) to fiscal 2019 (ended in Sep. 2019), Apple’s annual revenue rose 140% to $260.2 billion, while its EPS tripled to $2.97.

Apple’s stock is currently down 1.3% in Friday trading, amid a 0.8% drop for the Nasdaq. Shares are still up 51% year-to-date.

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