Katie Cotton, Who Helped Raise Apple’s Profile, Dies at 57

Katie Cotton, Apple’s longtime communications chief, who protected media access to the company’s visionary co-founder Steve Jobs and helped organize many of his product introductions, Died April 6 in Redwood City, California. She was 57 years old.

Her death at the hospital was confirmed by ex-husband Michael Mimeles. He didn’t disclose her reasons, but she experienced complications from heart surgery she had a few years ago.

Mr. Cotton, who built a mystery culture by making relatively few remarks to reporters, joined Apple in 1996 and began working with Mr. Jobs the following year, shortly after he returned to the company after a 12-year absence. . At the time, Apple was in dire financial straits, but Mr. Cotton worked with Mr. Jobs to make a remarkable turnaround.

As the company bounced back from steep losses and launched a succession of successful products, including the iMac desktop computer and innovative digital devices such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, the two developed a well-managed public relations strategy. rice field.

“She was tough, tough, and very protective of both the Apple brand and Steve, especially when Steve got sick.” Walt MossbergThe former Wall Street Journal technology columnist said in a phone interview that Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. he listened to her. She was able to pull him away from what he meant or tried to say. ”

Cotton spoke briefly, if at all, when reporters questioned her, but is helpful when speaking off the record or in the background.

“She was approachable and contactable, but if they wanted to tell the world a story, it was hand-to-hand combat, and that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell,” says John Markoff, former New York Times tech spokesman said by phone.

Mr. Cotton also chose reporters who could talk to Mr. Jobs (although Mr. Jobs occasionally spoke alone with journalists he knew well). In 1997, she invited Newsweek reporter Katie Hafner to see the first commercial for Apple’s new product. “I don’t think so” Advertising campaign with Mr. Jobs.

As the commercial opens, it opens with a still of Mr. Jobs holding an apple in his left hand, followed by clips of people who changed the world, with the narrator paying homage to “crazy people, misfits, rebels and troublemakers.” . Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali and more.

“I looked around and saw Steve crying.” Mr. Hafner, who wrote about Apple for Newsweek and later for the New York Times, said in a telephone interview. “I looked at Katie and I didn’t know if she was moved or triumphant — I don’t know — she knew how to play this and how to give me access. So I was full of admiration for her.”

Richard StengelA former Time editor-in-chief said in an email that Jobs “calls me five or six times a day to tell me if I should write an article.” Let’s go,” he said. Then apologize softly or retract what he said. “She was very loyal, but she saw him for what he was.”

Kathryn Elizabeth Cotton was born on October 30, 1965 in Washington, New Jersey. Her father, Philip, worked for a telecommunications company. Her mother, Marie (Kubo) Cotton, worked a variety of jobs, including catering.

After graduating from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1988, Mr. Cotton worked in sales, marketing and public relations at Dav-El Limousine in Los Angeles before moving to public relations agency Allison Thomas Associates. . The company’s technology His clients included Mr. Jobs, who was running Next Software at the time. But before Cotton was hired around 1994, Thomas and Jobs had fallen out.

“She was great at what she did,” Thomas said in a phone interview.

In mid-1996, when Gilbert Amelio was Apple’s chief executive, the troubled company hired Ms. Cotton to help with its public relations efforts. “Katie was doing PR for technology before it was trendy and cool. Apple needed someone with Katie’s experience,” said Mimeles, her ex-husband who also worked at Apple. said in a telephone interview.

In late 1996, Apple acquired Next and Jobs returned to Apple as an advisor. He became the company’s interim CEO in 1997 and became CEO three years later. That year, he promoted Ms. Cotton to head of public relations and communications at Apple, eventually appointing her vice president of communications at Worldwide, a position she held for many years.

“When Steve came back, he didn’t just put the key engineers in place. .”

She spoke little publicly about his health problems until his death in 2011, but continued to work for Mr. Jobs and then his successor, Tim Cook, until his retirement in 2014. I worked for

One measure of her influence was headlines for Macworld magazine. “Apple PR Cotton Departs. What does that mean for the media? ”

Mr. Cotton has never worked for another company. She has done corporate consulting and mentored young people at her Atherton High School in Atherton, CA, where her children attend, and at the Leaks Center, a non-profit educational organization in Menlo, CA.

Cotton’s mother survived. her daughter Isabel Mimeles; son, Ethan Mimeles; her partner, Jim Wells; Her sisters, Lori Ann David and Patti Stewart. and her brother, Richard Cotton.

After Jobs’ death, the advertising agency TBWA/Media Arts Lab showed a proposed commercial for Cotton and two other Apple executives.

“It’s sad when a founder dies,” the commercial begins, Tripp Mickle writes in “After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul” (2022). “You wonder if you can get by without him. Should he put on a brave face for the world, or be honest?”

When it was over, Mr. Cotton was crying.

“I can’t do this,” she said. they never did.

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