Who Will Replace Tim Cook as Apple CEO?


There are not many companies that could have a 35% stock drop in six months where the CEO would not be under tremendous pressure. That includes Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook. Although he was hand-picked by deceased former CEO and founder Steve Jobs, the Apple board many consider him a liability if Apple's new products fail in the marketplace and the company misses a number of its financial forecasts and its share price continues to fall rapidly. Apple's board, like any other responsible one, has an obligation to pick the best person possible run the company. And Cook may have stumbled though enough tests that his ouster may be just months away.

Who would replace Cook? The list is fairly short, given Apple's size and the complexity of its products and technology.

Apple would not turn inside the company to pick a new chief executive. Too many of Apple's most senior management have been with the firm too long and are tainted with their association with Apple's troubles.

Potential new CEOs for Apple include:

John Chambers of Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) is considered the dean of Silicon Valley CEOs. Chambers, who is almost 65, has captained Cisco since 1995. The firm's revenue over that period has grown from less than $2 billion a year to nearly $50 billion. Cisco's operations are vast and among the most complex in the tech industry.

A dark horse for the Apple job is the chairman of arch rival Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) - Eric Schmidt. He is no longer CEO of Google, having been moved out of that job by the board and replaced by Larry Page. Google's shares have reached an all-time high, and much of the reason for the firm's success goes to Schmidt. But Schmidt may want a second act after being pushed upstairs at Google. If he joined Apple and turned it around, he could be considered the greatest CEO in tech history. That, by itself, could be an enticement. And Schmidt has another advantage. He is a former Apple board member.

Retired International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) CEO Sam Palmisano led one of the world's largest technology companies through a transformation that helped it diversity into software and services and move further away from hardware. He ran IBM during the mammoth integration of PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting in 2002, considered one of the signature moves in reinventing IBM.

The most risky move Apple could take is to hire former Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd, who was pushed out of the company and is now co-president of Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL). Oracle founder Larry Ellison said that Hurd was one of the tech industry's most skilled leaders and recruited him within weeks after his ouster from HP. Hurd is known as a hard-nosed operator who ran one of the most diverse tech companies in the world, and ran it well.

There is a slight chance Apple would turn to its own board. Chairman Arthur D. Levinson built biotech company Genentech. He was made CEO of that company in 1995 and is credited with making it into a global giant. Levinson is a prominent scientist and has been cited on several occasions as one of the best CEOs in America.

Cook may not make it until the end of 2013. Apple needs a new CEO short list.

Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Management Change Tagged: AAPL, CSCO, GOOG, IBM, ORCL