Apple's Tim Cook Fills Key Role He Once Played for Steve Jobs

  • Longtime deputy Jeff Williams steps into COO post Cook held
  • Moves strengthen management bench, highlight chipmaking

Apple Hits Shuffle on Management, Names Jeff Williams COO

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has found an executive to fill the role he once played for Steve Jobs.

Cook today announced that Jeff Williams will be promoted to the position of chief operations officer, a job that has been vacant since Cook became Apple’s CEO in 2011. The appointment was part of several management changes at the world’s most valuable company, including the elevation of a top engineer who has been in charge of designing chips that are at the heart of the iPhone and iPad.

Williams, who joined Apple in 1998, has been one of Cook’s most trusted deputies and has seen his role expand over the past five years. In addition to managing Apple’s vast supply chain, Cook turned to him to oversee the release of Apple Watch earlier this year. Williams also vets potential acquisitions, coordinates with Foxconn Technology Group and other manufacturers, and oversees the logistics needed to get millions of devices from Asian factories to stores around the world.

He’s also very similar to Cook in demeanor: soft-spoken, an avid fitness buff and has a vivid memory for operational details. Both men have MBAs from Duke University and spent early parts of their careers at IBM. Williams has been called "Tim Cook’s Tim Cook."

Chip Importance

As part of the management shuffle, Johny Srouji was promoted to senior vice president for hardware technologies, and Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, will take on leadership of the App Store, the company said in a statement. Advertising executive Tor Myhren, currently chief creative officer at Grey Worldwide, will join Apple next year as vice president of marketing communications to head Apple’s advertising efforts -- responsibilities that Schiller will be relinquishing.

The promotion of Srouji is a testament to the widening importance of chip making to Apple. Srouji joined Apple in 2008 and led the development of the A4 chip, which went on to power iPads and a generation of iPhones. Heralded by the Haaretz newspaper as the highest-ranking Israeli in Silicon Valley, Srouji previously held senior positions at Intel Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. He’s a graduate of Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology.

Srouji also oversees technologies such as batteries, application processors, sensors and other internal components that are critical to the iPhone and iPad. Apple has been investing heavily in semiconductors and unlike many other handset makers, it designs its own chips instead of buying whatever the latest product is from outside suppliers.

The management moves point to a potential line of succession at Apple. When Cook was in the role now filled by Williams, he stepped in as the interim CEO when Jobs had to take medical leave to battle cancer. Apple declined to comment on succession, but has said in the past that it has a plan in place and that different members of its executive team could step in.

“These strategic moves fit like a glove as Apple needed to fill the COO vacancy heading into a pivotal 2016,” said Daniel Ives, managing director at FBR Capital Markets. “They really need to boost that bench behind Cook.”

The appointments come at a critical time for Apple. The iPhone, which accounts for 66 percent of its sales and has been experiencing years of strong growth, is now showing signs of slowing down. Analysts in recent days have been lowering their sales forecasts amid weaker-than-expected demand.

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