5 people Tim Cook calls for advice on running the biggest company in the world

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Apple CEO Tim Cook presents the smaller iPhone SE during the spring event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, USA, 21 March 2016.
Apple CEO Tim Cook presents the smaller iPhone SE during the spring event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, USA, 21 March 2016.

Image: Christoph Dernbach/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

It’s only fitting that the leader of the biggest company in the world has a pretty impressive list of friends. 

In an extended interview with the Washington Post, Apple’s top executive offered new insight into how he’s handled some of the bigger decisions he’s made in his five years as CEO. Among the revelations: a casual list of some of the biggest names in business and politics who he has called upon for advice in years past.

“I think it’s incumbent on a CEO to not just listen to points of view but to actually solicit them,” Tim Cook said in the interview. “Because I think, if not, you quickly become insular. And you’re sort of living in the echo chamber.”

Warren Buffet

Tim Cook said he consulted with the famed investor when Apple decided to return cash to Apple shareholders in 2012. Cook noted that he sought Buffet’s advice, in part, because he wouldn’t be biased:

I thought he’s the natural person

“When I was going through [the question of] what should we do on returning cash to shareholders, I thought who could really give us great advice here,” he said. “Who wouldn’t have a bias? So I called up Warren Buffett. I thought he’s the natural person, and so I try to go through that process on everyone.” “That doesn’t mean I always do what they say,” he added.

Anderson Cooper

The CNN anchor may seem like a surprising confidante, but Cook said he spoke with him before making one of his most personal decisions: the op-ed he wrote in 2014 declaring “I’m proud to be gay.” Cook said he went to Cooper because he admired how the anchor handled his own decision to come out publicly in 2012. 

“I talked to Anderson Cooper at length — multiple times,” Cook said. “Because I thought that the way that he handled his announcement was really classy. I was getting advice from people who I thought were really great people who had really deeply thought about it.”

Bill Clinton

In 2013, Cook was facing his first Congressional testimony (he was called to testify about Apple’s tax practices). He said he consulted with a number of people before the hearing, including the 42nd president himself, who he me through the Clinton Foundation.

“He knows a lot about the politics,” Cook said of Clinton. “I’d not met him through a political connection. I’d met him through the foundation.”

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein

It was the same hearing that prompted Cook to reach out to another prominent business figure — Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

“I looked back to say who’s done this before? I knew Lloyd and thought he’d be honest with me,” Cook said.

Laurene Powell Jobs

Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, also counseled Cook prior to his Congressional testimony. Cook, who elsewhere in the interview called the day of Steve Job’s death “the worst day ever,” noted that she has a unique understanding of the company and Cook himself.

“Laurene has the lens of knowing me and deeply understanding Apple.”

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