Apple

The People With Power at Apple

After shaking up the mobile industry over a decade ago, Apple is looking for a new act. With the iPhone growth machine sputtering, it is beefing up teams devoted to healthcare and internet services, including a foray into video streaming expected this year.

The chart accompanying this story, which shows more than 180 of the top leaders at Apple, provides an overview of the hyper-secretive company with a previously unreported level of detail, including the people running stealthy projects devoted to augmented reality and autonomous vehicles. The management oversees a workforce of 132,000, which has more than doubled in size since Tim Cook took over as CEO from co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

The Takeaway
• Apple CEO Tim Cook has 19 direct reports, more than other tech CEOs
• Cook more of consensus-builder than his predecessor, Steve Jobs
• AR group includes people with content backgrounds from film and game companies

“Apple reinvents itself every 10 or so years,” said Gene Munster, managing director at Loup Ventures, a venture capital firm. “A reinvention is going on now. It largely centers around services, including parts of AI, AR and healthcare.”

Nineteen people directly report to Mr. Cook, overseeing hardware, software, services, chips, artificial intelligence, marketing, finance and other areas (the figure includes Mr. Cook’s executive assistant and excludes a senior leader who reports to Mr. Cook and another executive). That is more than the CEOs of other top tech companies, including Facebook, Amazon and Uber.

Unlike Mr. Jobs, a legendary control freak, Mr. Cook is a consensus-builder who tends to closely consult with his top lieutenants. A former operations and supply chain guru for Apple, he avoids meddling in product decisions, as Mr. Jobs did, people familiar with his leadership said.

“What’s different today is that Tim is much more of a delegator,” said David Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School, who has studied Apple extensively. “Apple is a more traditional type of organization today relative to what it was under Steve.”

One advantage to Mr. Cook’s approach is that relations between the company’s senior vice presidents are less politically volatile than they were in the Jobs era, said current and former employees. When conflicts arise, Mr. Cook expects his lieutenants to resolve their differences. Mr. Jobs often picked sides and saw benefits to pitting executives against each other, they said.

The downside, though, is that Apple no longer has a singular voice akin to that of Mr. Jobs, whose instincts on product and marketing matters were unusual for a CEO. While Apple still releases innovative products, it has faced growing criticism that its offerings are no longer as inspiring and polished as they once were.

While it figures out its next big thing, the company recently instituted a slowdown in hiring. Following a holiday earnings report that disappointed investors last month—iPhone revenue fell 15% from a year earlier—Mr. Cook told employees at an all-hands meeting that some divisions at the company would be cutting back on hiring, Bloomberg reported. It recently laid off more than 200 employees from its autonomous vehicle effort, known as Project Titan, though the project continues.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Cook’s Team

'Apple reinvents itself every 10 or so years,' said Gene Munster, managing director at Loup Ventures, a venture capital firm. 'A reinvention is going on now.'

Most of Mr. Cook’s lieutenants are holdovers from the Jobs era. Jonathan Ive remains the head of its influential design group, with power over the look and feel of hardware and software. Jeff Williams occupies Mr. Cook’s former job as chief operating officer, with oversight of a team dedicated to a new Apple healthcare initiative.

In addition to the iPhone and other existing products, Dan Riccio, Apple’s hardware engineering chief, oversees experimental and risky new hardware bets like augmented reality, which could include a wearable device for overlaying digital imagery on users’ views of the physical world. Within the AR group beneath him are nearly a dozen leaders with expertise in hardware, software and content, with backgrounds working in places like DreamWorks Animation and Sony’s PlayStation games group.

While Apple’s senior ranks have been relatively stable, its retail head Angela Ahrendts recently announced she will leave the company in April after more than five years overseeing its more than 500 stores and 70,000 retail employees, roughly half the company’s total workforce. Apple moved responsibility for retail to its human resources head Deirdre O’Brien, a curious move for a business that plays a vital role in Apple’s relationship with its customers.

One of the newer members of Mr. Cook’s team is AI chief John Giannandrea, who joined Apple from Google last year and was promoted to senior vice president in December. For years, Apple had struggled to come up with a cohesive AI strategy as Google and Amazon poured money into the technology. Mr. Giannandrea has shaken up the team overseeing Apple’s AI efforts, including its struggling Siri group. The Information recently reported that Bill Stasior, the longtime head of the group overseeing the Apple voice assistant, had left that position.

Another longtime executive, Eddy Cue, is in charge of Apple’s services business, which Mr. Cook has seized on as one of the company’s most promising growth businesses at a time when iPhone sales are stalling (revenue from the device fell 15% in the holiday quarter from a year earlier). It is preparing a foray into original video programming with a new streaming service, though it is far behind rivals like Netflix.

Another one of Mr. Jobs’ deputies whose clout has grown under Mr. Cook is Philip Schiller, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, say people familiar with his team. He holds considerable sway over Apple’s product roadmaps and can shoot down a project if he disapproves of it, they said. When the Spotlight search team was pitching a new feature in a meeting a few years ago, for example, one of Mr. Schiller’s lieutenants told the group that his response to the proposal was “NFW”—short for “no fucking way.” The feature was shelved.

“Phil and Steve had a strong relationship and the net of that was the marketing was telling the story,” said Michael Gartenberg, a former senior director of marketing at Apple. “One thing Apple does well is tell a story. Phil is the narrator.”


Wayne Ma is a reporter covering U.S. tech in Asia, from Apple's supply chain to Facebook's and Google's operations in the region. He previously worked for The Wall Street Journal. He is based in Hong Kong and can be found on Twitter at @waynema.