Tim Cook comes out: 5 interesting facts about the Apple CEO

IN AN opinion piece he wrote in Bloomberg Businessweek on Thursday, Apple Inc's chief executive, Tim Cook, publicly came out as gay.

Cook, who turns 54 on Saturday, said that he wanted to support others who find it difficult to reveal their sexual orientation.

"So let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me," wrote Cook. The bold move makes him the first CEO of a company in the Fortune 500 list who is openly gay.

Here are five interesting facts about Apple's number one man:

1. His first job was delivering newspapers

As a teenager back in Alabama, Cook delivered newspapers for the Press-Register, and work part-time with his mother at a local pharmacy.

Armed with the ambition of becoming an engineer, he earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Auburn University in 1982. He was once described by a teacher as a "solid B-plus or A-minus student," according to news site Mashable.

His first experience running a business came unexpectedly while on an educational programme with aluminum company Reynolds. The company laid off much of its staff, and the then-college student scored a chance to work closely with its president and oversee operations.

2. He is a sports buff

The Alabama native is a staunch supporter of the Auburn Tigers football team from Auburn University.

He also serves on the boards of the National Football Foundation and Nike Inc, is an avid cyclist, and reportedly a one-time Lance Armstrong fan, according to Mashable.

3. He may be rich, but he's also frugal

According to Mashable, Cook lived in rental housing for years without air conditioning, and buys his underwear at American retailer Nordstrom's twice-a-year sale.

As a businessman, he has been described as someone who "would haggle over a nickel to drive profits."

4. He is ambitious and generous

According to Yukari Iwatani Kane's book, Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, Cook tried to secure a seat that was physically close to Apple founder Steve Jobs.

As an operations executive, he apparently requested for a "small office kitty-corner" to Jobs' office.

Kane writes of this episode: "Few people thought much of it at the time, but they would later look back at it as an indication of the new leader's ambition."

While there is no record of Jobs donating any of his estimated US$8.3 billion (S$10.6 billion) fortune to charity, Cook donated US$100 million (S$128 million) to Stanford University hospitals and African aid organisation Product Red in 2011.

This move was described by the New York Post as fixing Apple's "stingy" reputation.

More recently in October, Apple announced that it would be distributing over $100 million worth of iPads to students in 114 underprivileged US schools, as part of president Barack Obama's ConnectED initiative to enrich education.

It would also be equipping every teach with an iPad and a Mac, and classrooms with AppleTVs, reported tech site Engadget.

5. He has always been loyal to Apple

Cook first joined Apple in 1998, two years after being misdiagnosed with multiple scleroris, according to the Daily Mail.

He first served as senior vice president of operations, overseeing computer manufacturing, and was later promoted to chief of global sales of the Macintosh division.

In August 2011, he succeeded Jobs as Apple's chief executive.

According to Mashable, recruiters have approached Cook over the years, offering him the position of CEO at other tech giants like Dell and Motorola. But he never once budged.

As they say, an Apple a day keeps the doctor and some others away.

What people are saying about Tim Cook's coming out

From former US president Bill Clinton to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Cook received plenty of support on social media for coming out.

Clinton tweeted: "From one son of the South and sports fanatic to another, my hat's off to you."

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg thanked Cook for being "a real courageouse and authentic leader".

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai both called him inspiring on Twitter, while Apple co-workers like senior vice president of worldwide marketing Philip W. Schiller said that he was "proud" to be Cook's colleague and friend.

 

//

On the other end of the spectrum, however, some were less than receptive.

Referring to Mozilla Firefox CEO Brendan Eich's financial support against gay marriage, Bryan Fischer from the American Family Association tweeted: "Apple CEO comes out as gay, lionised by low-information media. Mozilla CEO comes out for natural marriage, demonised."

Vitaly Milonov, a prominent anti-LGBT lawmaker in St. Petersburg, told Russian news site FlashNord: "What could he bring us? The Ebola virus, Aids, gonorrhoea? They all have disorderly ties over there. Ban (him from) entering forever."

Sources: MarketWatch, Mashable, Gawker, Daily Mail, New York Post, NDTV, BuzzFeed, Washington Post, FlashNord

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg