5 things you didn't know about Apple CEO Tim Cook

SINGAPORE - From the start, Apple chief executive Tim Cook has had big shoes to fill.

He took over the reins of one of the most iconic technology companies in the world after the death in 2011 of its legendary founder, Steve Jobs.

It was Jobs who famously debuted the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad with his signature "One more thing" line.

But on Monday came the moment for Cook to get on stage in San Francisco and launch the company's first new gadget in five years, post-Jobs - the Apple Watch.

With the personal stakes high and all eyes on Cook, here are five things you might not know about the man:

1. He's a fitness nut

The famously solitary Cook enjoys cycling, hiking, and rock climbing in his free time. An early riser who often begins sending e-mails at 4.30am, he is known to hit the gym around 5am, before going to work and fuelling himself with energy bars throughout the day.

2. He's an Auburn Tigers superfan

A graduate of Auburn University in Alabama, Cook proudly states his Auburn pride in his Twitter profile. Even today, his love for the Auburn Tigers football team still burns strong - when a University of Alabama fan shouted the rival team's slogan while waiting in line for the iPhone 6, Cook was quick to counter with a roar of "War Eagle!", Auburn's battle cry and fight song.

3. He's big on charity

One of the first things Cook did upon becoming Apple CEO in 2011 was to start a charitable matching programme, where Apple matches employees' donations to non-profits dollar-by-dollar up to a limit of US$10,000 (S$13,800). By 2014, it had given more than US$50 million to charity in three years. Cook himself lives a frugal life, regularly giving away his frequent flyer miles as Christmas gifts. He participates in fundraising events, having taken part in a two-day cycling event to raise money for multiple sclerosis after a health scare where he was misdiagnosed with the condition.

4. Bono once called him a "Zen Master"

During the band U2's surprise album release in 2014, where the band gave their new album away for free to more than half a billion iTunes users, Bono went up to Cook at the Apple event and called him a "Zen Master". While the album drop met mixed reviews, the phrase aptly describes Cook's leadership style. Known for being intensely focused on the numbers, with an eye for detail, he puts himself through a gruelling schedule while expecting the same discipline from his employees. But at the same time, employees say Cook has created a more relaxed working environment outside meetings; he frequently eats with his staff in the cafeteria, unlike the notoriously aloof Jobs.

5. He has pictures of his heroes on his office wall

Photographs of his two heroes - Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy - hang on Cook's office wall. In a 2014 interview with Business Insider, Cook stated that he admires the two men because of how they "laid their lives on the line" for their beliefs. He has also said in the past that he admires Robert F. Kennedy for being comfortable in his brother's shadow - perhaps a nod to the legacy Jobs has left him. In any case, his choice of heroes - humble, hardworking, and generous - say a lot about the legacy Cook himself hopes to leave.

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