Apple's Hiring of an Outsider is Out of Character

Earlier this week, Tim Cook announced the hiring of John Browett to replace Ron Johnson as the Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple. After spending more than 10 years at Apple, building the world's most successful retail chain from scratch, Johnson was appointed CEO at JC Penney with the difficult task of turning around one of the country's most well-known department stores.

Johnson announced his departure from Apple in June of 2011 and by August Apple's recruiters were in full-swing looking for a replacement. Curiously, for a company where nearly the entire executive team is home-grown, reports emerged that Apple was using executive search-firm Egon Zehnder to assist with finding the perfect candidate. The Wall Street Journal reported that Steve Jobs, at the time still on medical leave, was intimately involved in the decision to hire an outside firm "mainly because he wants to consider executives who are based abroad."

hamburgstore
The entire executive team at Apple, aside from the just-hired Browett and Bruce Sewell, Apple's general counsel, has been with the company for more than 10 years. Aside from the general counsel position, Apple's leadership team has remained fairly consistent through the second Steve Jobs era.

Of nearly two dozen current and former executives, only a bare handful were hired from outside the company rather than being promoted from within, and only one -- general counsel Bruce Sewell -- is still with the firm. Apple's most famous crash-and-burn external hire was that of Mark Papermaster, a long-time IBMer who was hired by Apple in 2008 as Senior Vice President for Devices Hardware Engineering. After a lengthy court battle with IBM over a non-compete clause he had signed, he was put in charge of the teams behind the iPod and iPhone, and presumably the early development of the iPad as well.

Papermaster finally started work at Apple on April 24, 2009, nearly six months after he was originally hired. He left the company after only 15 months, just after the Antennagate scandal.

He was in charge of the division that created the iPhone 4, and Papermaster's departure would seem to be that of an executive who fell on his sword over perceived issues with Apple's flagship product. However, Adam Lashinsky's book Inside Apple notes that there was more to it than a simple product miscue. Papermaster's years at IBM left him ill-prepared for the aggressive corporate culture at the top of Apple.

Steve Jobs was on medical leave when Papermaster, who declined repeated requests to be interviewed, started at Apple. By the time Jobs returned, the word on Papermaster was that he wasn't fitting in. He wasn't seen as fighting hard for his division, a requisite internally. "Papermaster is a really nice guy, proverbially the guy you'd want to have a beer with," said someone who interacted with him during his time at Apple. "He is warm, patient, and willing to listen--just not the right qualities for Apple. It was so painfully obvious to everyone." It was said that when he came back to work, Jobs paid little attention to Papermaster, meaning the new executive had achieved "bozo" status in the founder's exacting judgement."

executiveteam
Inside Apple is full of tales of the unique culture at Apple, such as the lack of profit-and-loss reports for individual divisions, like those that exist at most large companies. Apple's idiosyncratic culture and the complete lack of external hires at the top -- plus the short life-spans of those that have been tried -- mean John Browett, currently the CEO of European technology retailer Dixons Retail, could be in for a bumpy ride.

browettFrom both Apple's press release announcing the move and an email Tim Cook sent to an Apple customer about Browett's hire, it's clear that Apple is not hiring Browett for his experience at Dixons. Browett's hire has raised some concerns from Apple fans because of poor shopping experiences at the different retailers he was in charge of. Instead, Cook is hiring Browett for his enthusiasm for amazing customer service -- something Apple puts a lot of stock in -- as well as his international expertise.

John Browett is Tim Cook's first major hire as CEO, and a lot of analysts and Apple fans will be watching to see how it plays out. Though it is likely Steve Jobs had extensive input on the process both before he resigned as CEO and before he passed away, Tim Cook is indisputably in charge.

The first Apple Store opened in 2001, more than 10 years ago. Apple Retail's second 10 years are called the "decade of significance" within the company. It seems likely that retail will continue to be Apple's most noteworthy corporate initiative -- showcasing both the brand and its products to millions of visitors a week -- and John Browett, a complete outsider, is Apple's choice to run it.

Top Rated Comments

Grimace Avatar
130 months ago
Love the original reporting! It's nice to see MR as more than an aggregator of other articles. Well written, and well done!
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
3282868 Avatar
130 months ago
"Papermaster is a really nice guy, proverbially the guy you'd want to have a beer with," said someone who interacted with him during his time at Apple. "He is warm, patient, and willing to listen--just not the right qualities for Apple. It was so painfully obvious to everyone."

I get that corporate culture is rough and competitive, but lord, do you have to be a p***k to work at Apple???
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Shrink Avatar
130 months ago
Papermaster was "warm, patient, and willing to listen--just not the right qualities for Apple."

This does not reflect well on the rest of the team, as it certainly implies they are not willing to listen and act like mature adults. :(
Would do you mean by this?
I'm just guessing, mind you, but I think he means that the executive team is not willing to listen and does not act like mature adults.

I also think he means that being warm, patient, and willing to listen are not valued qualities in Apple executives.

I'm just guessing, mind you. It's a stab in the dark.

I am also guessing that you would say that the valued qualities (not listening, not acting like mature adults) is good - look at the end product of that behavior. Also those qualities must be good, because they are qualities valued at Apple.

Another blind stab in the dark.:rolleyes:
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
aristotle Avatar
130 months ago
Doesn't look like diversity has reached the executive suite at Apple.
How 1950's.
Right, because your ethnicity or gender has anything to do with your performance. :rolleyes: I would hate to see Apple hiring based on ethnicity or gender rather than merit.

If someone is the best person for the job then they should hire them regardless of gender or ethnicity.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lone Deranger Avatar
130 months ago
Instead, Cook is hiring Browett for his enthusiasm for amazing customer service...
How can Browett, a man for years in charge of a big retail chain, renowned for it’s dire customer service, be labelled as having enthusiasm for amazing customer service??? This does not compute. :confused:

And yes… Kudos on the write-up Jordan! A good read.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kris400 Avatar
130 months ago
I don't get it at all. "Amazing customer service"? - that's the one thing that's TERRIBLE here at Dixons and PC World.

The people working at these places just come across as cheap salesman trying to flog as much stuff as possible, who will say anything to succeed no matter what.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole 16x9 120hz

Analyst: All iPhone 14 Models to Feature 120Hz Displays, 6GB of RAM, and More

Friday January 14, 2022 7:02 am PST by
Apple is rumored to announce four new iPhone 14 models in September, and ahead of time, analyst Jeff Pu has outlined his expectations for the devices. In a research note with Haitong International Securities, obtained by MacRumors, Pu claimed that all iPhone 14 models will feature ProMotion displays, compared to only Pro models currently. ProMotion enables a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz ...
ios 15

Apple Releases Minor iOS 15.2.1 and iPadOS 15.2.1 Updates

Wednesday January 12, 2022 10:05 am PST by
Apple today released minor 15.2.1 updates for iPhone and iPad users, and the software comes one month after Apple launched iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2 with a slew of improvements. The iOS 15.2.1 and iPadOS 15.2.1 update can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to Settings > General >...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With LG's 32-Inch UltraFine OLED Pro Display

Wednesday January 12, 2022 1:12 pm PST by
LG in December announced the launch of its new 2022 32-inch UltraFine OLED Pro display, and in our latest YouTube video, we went hands-on with it to see how it compares to Apple's Pro Display XDR and whether it might be worth picking up depending on the price point. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Officially named the "32BP95E," the display features a resolution of ...
iPad Pro Big Ol Logo Orange

Next iPad Pro Might Feature Large Glass Apple Logo to Allow Wireless Charging

Friday January 14, 2022 10:44 am PST by
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and Debby Wu last year reported that Apple had tested a new iPad Pro with a glass back for wireless charging capabilities. In a recent edition of his newsletter, Gurman said he expects the new iPad Pro to be released in 2022. While the new iPad Pro is still on track to feature wireless charging, 9to5Mac's Filipe Espósito today reported that Apple may have ultimately...
iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole

iPhone 14 Pro Now Rumored to Feature Both Pill-Shaped and Circular Cutouts

Wednesday January 12, 2022 9:26 am PST by
Apple is widely expected to remove the notch on iPhone 14 Pro models, but there have been conflicting rumors about the new design. Early rumors suggested that Apple would adopt a hole-punch design with Face ID somehow moved completely under the display, and later it was rumored that there would be a pill-shaped cutout instead. Now, display industry consultant Ross Young has claimed that...
fortnite apple logo geforce feature

Fortnite Coming Back to iOS Soon Thanks to Nvidia's GeForce NOW Service

Thursday January 13, 2022 11:19 am PST by
With the Apple vs. Epic Games lawsuit continuing on, there are no signs that Apple has any intention of allowing popular battle royale game Fortnite to return to the App Store on iPhone and iPad. Epic Games has found a workaround though, by partnering up with Nvidia. GeForce NOW, Nvidia's streaming gaming service, will soon add Fortnite support, allowing Fortnite to be played through a...
iMac 27 inch 2020 sale

Deals: Apple's 21.5-Inch iMac Hits Record Low Price of $599.99 ($499 Off) [Update: Out of Stock]

Thursday January 13, 2022 4:05 am PST by
Amazon today has a great deal on the 2017 Intel 21.5-inch iMac (2.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD), priced at $599.99, down from $1,099.00. This is the best price we've ever tracked on this model, and it's only available at Amazon. The sale price will be reflected after an automatic coupon is applied at checkout. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a...