On the same day Apple announced its longtime chief designer Jony Ive would leave to form his own company, it also announced another move: the promotion of Sabih Khan, an Apple veteran of 24 years, to be the company’s new senior VP of operations.
Khan will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
“I’ve been privileged to work with Sabih for more than 20 years, and you won’t find a more talented operations executive anywhere on the planet,” Williams said in Apple’s press release announcing the news.
As SVP of operations, Khan will be responsible for overseeing Apple’s global supply chain, which gathers and processes materials to build the company’s computers and smartphones.
If you’re wondering why Khan is the right man for the job, it’s important to know that Khan has been a key executive at Apple for many years. And there’s one particular anecdote that captures Khan’s reliability.
In a 2008 profile of Tim Cook, who was serving as Apple’s chief operating officer at the time under Steve Jobs, Fortune recounted a story between Cook and his “top lieutenants” that perfectly captures Khan’s devotion and reliability:
One day back then, he convened a meeting with his team, and the discussion turned to a particular problem in Asia. “This is really bad,” Cook told the group. “Someone should be in China driving this.” Thirty minutes into that meeting Cook looked at Sabih Khan, a key operations executive, and abruptly asked, without a trace of emotion, “Why are you still here?” Khan, who remains one of Cook’s top lieutenants to this day, immediately stood up, drove to San Francisco International Airport, and, without a change of clothes, booked a flight to China with no return date, according to people familiar with the episode. The story is vintage Cook: demanding and unemotional.
Mind you, this story happened almost 20 years ago. Khan has only gained more experience since then, having helped Apple deliver hit devices like the iPhone and launch entirely new product categories like the Apple Watch.
“He is a world-class leader and collaborator,” Williams said. “I have no doubt that he will be the best leader of the Ops team in Apple’s history.”