Katie Cotton, who helped raise Apple’s profile, dies at 57

Katie Cotton, who as Apple’s longtime communications chief guarded media access to Steve Jobs, the company’s visionary co-founder, and helped organize the introduction of many of his products, died on April 6 in Redwood City, California. She was 57 years old.

Her death, in a hospital, was confirmed by Michael Mimeles, her ex-husband. He did not give a cause but said she had complications from heart surgery she had a few years ago.

Ms. Cotton, who has built a culture of mystery by saying relatively little, if anything, to reporters, joined Apple in 1996 and began working with Mr. Jobs the following year, shortly after returning to the company. after 12 years of absence. Apple was in bad financial shape at the time, but Ms. Cotton worked with Mr. Jobs to engineer a dramatic turnaround.

Together they crafted a tightly controlled public relations strategy as the company recovered from major losses and churned out one successful product after another, including the iMac desktop computer and innovative digital devices like the iPod. , iPhone and iPad.

“She was great and tough and very protective of both the Apple brand and Steve, especially when he got sick,” Walt Mossberg, a former technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, said in a telephone interview, referring to Mr. Jobs’ diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2004. He added: “She was one of the few people in whom he had implicit trust. He listened to her. She could distract him from something he intended to do or say.

Ms Cotton spoke tersely, if at all, when interviewed by reporters, but she could be helpful when speaking off the record or in the background.

“She was approachable, she was a point of contact, but sometimes it was a hand-to-hand fight if they wanted to tell a story to the world and that was not the story I wanted to tell,” John Markoff, a former technology reporter for The New York Times, said by phone.

Ms. Cotton also chose reporters who could talk to Mr. Jobs (even though he occasionally spoke, alone, to reporters he knew well). In 1997, she invited Newsweek reporter Katie Hafner to watch the first ad for the new “Think differently” advertising campaign, with Mr. Jobs.

A tribute to the ‘crazy, misfits, rebels and troublemakers’, intoned a narrator as the advert opened with a still image of Mr Jobs holding an apple in his left hand and continued with clips of people who changed the world, including Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Edison and Muhammad Ali.

“I watched and Steve was crying,” Mrs Hafner, who wrote about Apple for Newsweek and later for The New York Times, said in a phone interview. “I looked at Katie and couldn’t tell if she was emotional or if she felt triumphant – I don’t know – but I was filled with admiration for her because she knew how to play this and give me access. “

Richard Stengela former editor of Time magazine, said in an email that Mr Jobs “calls me five or six times a day to tell me whether or not I should do a story”, and that Ms Cotton “calls me often right after and gently apologizing or retracting something he said. He added, “She was very loyal, but she saw it in an unvarnished way.”

Kathryn Elizabeth Cotton was born on October 30, 1965 in Washington, NJ. His father, Philip, worked for a telecommunications company. His mother, Marie (Cuvo) Cotton, worked in various trades, including catering.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arizona in 1988, Ms Cotton worked at Dav-El Limousine in Los Angeles in sales, marketing and public relations before joining the Allison PR agency. Thomas Associates. The company’s technology clients included Mr. Jobs, who then ran Next Software. But Ms Thomas and Mr Jobs had a falling out before Ms Cotton was hired around 1994.

“She was great at what she did,” Ms. Thomas said in a phone interview, “but it took a while for her obsessive work habits to become clear.”

In mid-1996, when Gilbert Amelio was chief executive of Apple, the struggling company hired Ms Cotton to help with public relations. “Katie did tech PR before it was hip and cool to do, and Apple needed someone with her background,” said Mr. Mimeles, her ex-husband, who also worked at Apple, during of a telephone interview.

At the end of 1996, Apple acquired Next, who brought Mr. Jobs back to Apple as an adviser. He would become the company’s interim chief executive in 1997 and chief executive three years later. That year, he appointed Ms. Cotton to lead Apple’s public relations and communications and eventually named her vice president of global communications, a title she held for many years.

“When Steve came back, he didn’t just put in key engineers,” Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, said over the phone. “He put the right people in place to guide us through the business, and Katie was a big part of that.”

She continued to work for Mr Jobs, while speaking little publicly about her health issues, until his death in 2011, then worked for Tim Cook, his successor, until his retirement in 2014.

A measure of his influence was a headline in Macworld magazine: “Apple PR Cotton Goes Away: What this could mean for the press.

Ms. Cotton has never held any other position in a company. She did business consulting and mentored youth at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, California, which her children attended, and at the Riekes Center, an educational nonprofit in Menlo, California.

Mrs. Cotton is survived by her mother; one daughter, Isabelle Mimeles; one son, Ethan Mimeles; her partner, Jim Wells; his sisters, Lori Ann David and Patty Stewart; and his brother, Richard Cotton.

After the death of Mr. Jobsadvertising agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab screened a proposed advertisement for Ms. Cotton and two other Apple executives.

“It’s sad when a founder dies,” the ad began, Tripp Mickle wrote in “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul” (2022). “You wonder if you can do it without him. Should you show your courage for the world or just be honest? »

At the end, Mrs. Cotton was crying.

“We can’t handle this,” she said. They never did.

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