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Here's Why Apple Can't Dawdle in Replacing Leadership

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Back in 2011, when Steve Jobs was very ill, there were persistent questions about Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) CEO succession plan. The most bizarre names were put forth by journalists, including those who had no experience as a corporate executive officer. But the only real candidate all along was Tim Cook, a man Mr. Jobs had great confidence in.

Now that Mr. Cook, who is 53 years old, is the CEO, the worries about Apple leadership are over -- for the time being.

However, corporate succession plans must still be written. Heaven forbid that Mr. Cook, in good health, should become seriously ill or get hit by a bus. So there should be, and certainly is, a new plan.

My candidate is Phil Schiller who is also 53. Over the years, as Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, no one has drunk more deeply from the well of Apple Kool-Aid than Mr. Schiller. Jonathan Ive isn't really an option because he's a designer, never been trained as a CEO, and is far more valuable right where he is.

A Trek in the Wilderness

In terms of long-term planning, many thought that Scott Forstall would someday, when he grew up, become the next generation Apple CEO. Unfortunately, Mr. Forstall may have thought that because he was the protege of Mr. Jobs that his future was secure at Apple. What stymied that was his youth and inability to work as a team member towards a larger cause, and that got him on the wrong side of Tim Cook, Bob Mansfield and others.

Perhaps the trek of Mr. Forstall in the wilderness, just as Mr. Jobs experienced after he was forced out of Apple in 1985, will bring Mr. Forstall full circle. Regrettably, history seldom repeats itself in that fashion.

At some point, Apple's executive team will need to think about what Apple's leadership will look like in a few years. It's not that I expect anyone on this team to be soon incapable of carrying out their duties anytime soon. Rather, it's a question of how Apple's leadership responds to the the natural course of aging, competitive challenges and the changing demographics of customers in the U.S. and worldwide.

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