Apple is forcing CEO Tim Cook to use a private jet for both business and leisure

Plenty to smile about.
Plenty to smile about.
Image: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
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Apple CEO Tim Cook grew up as a working-class kid in southern Alabama, shaping his mild-mannered persona, which stands in stark contrast from that of his mercurial predecessor, Steve Jobs. But that regular-guy image may need revising.

As a security measure, Apple has banned Cook from flying on a commercial airline, according to a regulatory statement filed (Dec. 27). For as long as he is working at Apple, Cook is forced to adopt the classic perquisite of the imperial chief executive, by flying in private jets for both corporate and personal events.

While the world’s elite happily indulge in the luxury of private aircraft, flying in corporate jets as a CEO can be fraught—particularly when they fall under scrutiny of shareholders or the government. In 2008, the CEOs of Ford, GM and Chrysler were excoriated by Congress for flying to Washington in private jets to ask taxpayers for $25 billion in bailouts. More recently, former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt’s habit of flying with a second private jet tailing him—in case the one he flew in broke down—added to a perception of waste and inefficiency that helped lead to his ouster earlier this year.

Of course, Apple isn’t anywhere close to the trouble facing automakers in the financial crisis or GE, which is under pressure from shareholders to boost its stagnant share price. Apple, with a market capitalization of over $800 billion and a total cash pile of over $260 billion, is one of the world’s most successful companies. If any company can afford to fly its CEO in corporate jets, it’s Apple.

According to the filing, Cook is required to fly in private jets to protect him, although it doesn’t specify from what sort of threats. “We do not consider the security measures provided to our executive officers to be a personal benefit, but rather reasonable and necessary expenses for the benefit of Apple.”

Flying Cook in private jets cost Apple $93,109 this year, the first year the policy was implemented, and providing personal security for him cost another $224,216.