Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Who Will Be Apple's Next CEO?

By Evan Niu, CFA - Updated Apr 10, 2021 at 8:21PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Tim Cook suggests that he's unlikely to be Apple's CEO a decade from now.

In a few months, Tim Cook will celebrate his 10th anniversary serving as Apple's (AAPL 0.96%) CEO. Steve Jobs had stepped down back in August 2011 due to ongoing health struggles, naming Cook as his successor. Jobs would die just a few months later, losing a protracted battle with pancreatic cancer. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Cook (who turned 60 last year) acknowledged that he would probably not be Apple CEO for another 10 years, although there are no specific plans at this time for his retirement.

That all leads an inevitable question on investors' minds: Who will be Apple's next CEO?

Jeff Williams at a virtual event in front of a blue Apple Watch Series 6

COO Jeff Williams unveils Apple Watch Series 6. Image source: Apple.

Will it be Jeff Williams?

Apple's senior leadership team consists primarily of company veterans who have each been with Apple for decades. While there isn't much modern precedent to go off, it seems certain that Apple would choose an internal candidate that lives and breathes the Mac maker's culture as opposed to tapping an external leader.

Once upon a time, Scott Forstall was thought to be in line for the CEO role, but Cook fired the former software chief back in 2012 over the disastrous rollout of Apple Maps -- reportedly due to Forstall's unwillingness to take responsibility for the debacle. There has also been periodic speculation about former design chief Jony Ive becoming CEO. However, Ive left the Cupertino tech giant to start his own design firm (with Apple being its biggest client) back in 2019, and he has never been interested in becoming chief executive.

More recently, there have been indications that Apple is considering COO Jeff Williams to be the company's next CEO. A longtime lieutenant to Cook, Williams knows how to manage Apple's sprawling global operations, which is critical when considering the company's sheer scale. It's worth noting that Cook had also served as Apple COO prior to becoming CEO in 2011. Williams is widely considered to be Cook's heir apparent, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

Nowadays, the ability to negotiate with suppliers, coordinate distribution, juggle supply chain logistics, and rally tens of thousands of employees is arguably more important to Apple's ability to execute than dreaming up the next visionary product.

That's not to say that Williams is lacking in the product department, as he currently spearheads Apple Watch development and oversees the company's digital health strategy. The COO also recently took on additional responsibilities in managing Apple's world-class design team when Ive departed and is reportedly more involved with product development than Cook currently is.

As a fitness enthusiast, Cook is in excellent health and plans to remain CEO for a few more years, according to the interview. Apple should have ample time to finalize its succession planning.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$142.92 (0.96%) $1.36

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
323%
 
S&P 500 Returns
112%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 07/07/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.