Tim Cook Joins the Billionaire Boys Club

Tim Cook Credit: Laura Hutton / Shutterstock
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With Apple on its way to becoming the world’s first $2 trillion company, overtaking Saudi Aramco’s lead, it looks like Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has now officially become a billionaire according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

According to Bloomberg, the change comes as a result of an increase in Apple’s share price of almost 5 percent last week, which puts it on the cusp of a market value of $2 trillion, and based on Cook’s share holdings puts the Apple CEO at a net worth of over $1 billion.

However, the actual estimate is based on a number of other more complicated factors, including regulatory filings and the behaviour of a “typical wealthy investor,” and Bloomberg notes that it could be lower is Cook has made undisclosed charitable gifts, which might not be surprising as the Apple CEO has said on more than one occasion that he plans to give most of his fortune away.

What’s particularly notable about Cook’s rise to billionaire status, however, is that most CEOs have achieved this distinction at the helm of company’s they themselves founded, including such luminaries as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos — who currently tops the Billionaires Index with a net worth of $186 billion.

Needless to say, having just crossed the $1 billion threshold, Cook has a long way to go even to catch up with Elon Musk, who is currently in tenth place on the list with a net worth of $67 billion, but it’s still a remarkable climb considering that when Tim Cook took the helm of Apple back in 2011, the company was worth around $350 billion.

While many analysts didn’t have a particularly optimistic outlook on how Apple would perform in the post-Jobs era, Tim Cook’s tenure as CEO has proven them all wrong, leading the company to heights that nobody could have possibly imagined — a growth of well over $1.5 trillion in less than ten years.

Out of all these stocks, Apple has become the greatest cash generation machine in history.

Hussein Kanji, partner and analyst at Hoxton Ventures

Even the bulk of the wealth held by Apple’s legendary late co-founder Steve Jobs’ didn’t actually come from Apple. Jobs joined the billionaire’s club back in 1995 after Pixar began trading on the open market following the extremely successful launch of Toy Story, with his ownership of the studio ballooning his net worth to $1.2 billion. At the time of Jobs’ death, his net worth was around $10 billion, but most of that came from his holdings in Disney, with Apple contributing around $2.1 billion to the total. Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs is currently number 31 on the Billionaires Index, with a net worth of $31.8 billion, although only some of that was inherited from her late husband.

These are staggering amounts of money, to be clear, and sometimes it’s hard to conceptualize exactly how much these billionaires are worth, but to put it in perspective, if you lived for 100 years and blew $1 million every single day for the rest of your life — 365 days a year, for 100 years — you still would have only spent $36.5 billion. By contrast, Jeff Bezos could throw away $5 million a day — every day — for the next 100 years and he still wouldn’t have spent all of his $186 billion net worth.

Cook’s Ascendancy

As noted earlier, it’s extremely rare for any non-founder CEO to become a billionaire, however Cook has been contributing to building Apple into the most valuable company in the world even before he took the helm as CEO, and in many ways he could even be described as a co-founder of the modern-day Apple — the new version of the company that rose from the ashes in 2000 when Steve Jobs returned to the helm.

Cook joined Apple back in 1998 to head up logistics and operations, quickly rising to the role of Chief Operating Officer, and effectively becoming Jobs’ right-hand man. Many believed Cook was being groomed for CEO long before any announcement was made, as while Apple had other legendary executives like Jony Ive on the design side and Phil Schiller on the marketing side, it was Cook’s operational savvy and uncanny understanding of business and supply chain factors that made him the obvious choice.

In fact, Cook gets all of the credit for Apple’s ability to ship hundreds of millions of iPhones each and every year, thanks to his meticulous restructuring of the company’s supply chain using “just-in-time” principles that minimized the amount of inventory Apple would need to stockpile while also being able to lock down the kinds of contracts that would ensure suppliers would be ready to ramp up and deliver the necessary components when required.

Over the course of his tenure at Apple, Cook has continually received equity bonuses as rewards for his mastery of the company’s complex supply chain, and of course received a massive bonus of even more restricted shares when he took over as CEO, although part of those payouts were tied directly to Apple’s stock performance. As of right now Cook directly owns 847,969 shares of Apple, which works out to about 0.02% of the company, which are worth around $375 million. However, there’s another $650 million of his net worth that’s made up of previous share sales, dividends, and other compensation he receives as CEO

While Cook’s more conservative approach to operations originally gave analysts pause — he certainly wasn’t the charismatic Steve Jobs personality that had been the face of Apple for so many years — Cook also knew how to surround himself with the right people, and actually listen to them. The results of course speak for themselves, since Apple’s revenue and profit have more than doubled since he took the helm as CEO.

Back in 2018, Apple already broke the record of becoming the world’s first trillion dollar company, and it held the spot as the most valuable publicly-traded company in the world until late last year, when the privately-held Saudi Aramco opened to public trading with a $1.88 trillion valuation, although it fell short of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s goal of becoming the first $2 trillion company.

Now it looks like Apple will be beating it out to that goal as well, having surpassed Saudi Aramco back in June with a 1.53 trillion market cap, since the Saudi Arabian oil company has seen its stock price drop since its initial public offering back in December, which also means that it’s no longer even a close race.

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