Apple's CEO succession: Who's next after Tim Cook?

Let's explore potential successors to Time Cooke for the future
An undated image of Apple CEO Tim Cook. — Apple Insider
An undated image of Apple CEO Tim Cook. — Apple Insider

While Tim Cook remains firmly in the CEO seat at Apple, a new report by Bloomberg explores potential successors for the future. The report highlighted both the frontrunners and those deemed less likely to take the reins.

If a change were imminent, Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams, previously considered the top contender, would likely step up. However, at 61, he's only two years younger than Cook, and Apple reportedly desires a long-term leader like Cook and Steve Jobs. "Five years ago, Jeff was clearly leading the pack," said an Apple executive, "but the lack of C-suite refresh leaves a problem."

Bloomberg sources "close to him" believe Cook will stay on for at least three more years. In this scenario, John Ternus, Senior Vice President of Hardware Engineering, emerges as the "most likely successor." Ternus has gained increasing visibility in recent years and is well-respected within Apple, earning praise from Cook, Eddy Cue, and others. A significant advantage is his age (49), making him more likely to stay for the long haul.

"Tim likes him a lot," said a source close to the executive team. "He's well-mannered, avoids controversy, and is a reticent decision-maker, similar to Tim." Ternus is also described as a "trustworthy hand" by Christopher Stringer, a former top Apple designer, who has consistently excelled in his roles. Eddy Cue, Cook's confidant, has even privately advocated for Ternus as the next CEO.

While Craig Federighi and Deirdre O'Brien are well-regarded, Bloomberg reported they are "unlikely successors." Others, like Phil Schiller and hardware chief Dan Riccio, are reportedly nearing the end of their tenures at Apple.

The report underscored Apple's need to find a leader who can not only maintain the company's success but also steer it into the future. With Cook potentially staying on for a few more years, the spotlight is firmly on John Ternus as the frontrunner to take the helm at Apple.