Apple Tim Cook's Coffee Auction: The Real Story, Kind of

There is a whole story behind the  coffee with Tim Cook auction on CharityBuzz, which coincidentally is creating a buzz (here, here and here) not seen since America discovered Nutella.

The thing is, we’ll never know it — the story, that is.

“There is a story, of course, about how (Apple CEO) Tim Cook got invovled with the RKF center,” CharityBuzz’s Glenda Felden said Thursday, referring to the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, which will benefit from the truckloads of cash the auction will raise. “I’m not sure I have permission to share that story.”

Felden said she was seeking an OK from the RFK center, which could happen, and from Apple, which also could happen — when hell freezes over.

Apple don’t tell nothing to nobody. The company lives in a cone of silence that would put the CIA to shame.

No matter that the auction is burning up the blogosphere, seeing as some coffee fan had (by Thursday morning) bid $180,000 to have coffee with Cook at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. (At that price, I’d sip my coffee nice and slow.)

Here’s what we do know: The auction item, which went up yesterday, already has attracted 52 bids. It was originally valued at $50,000, but how do you put a price on having a crappy cup of company cafeteria coffee in a CEO’s office? (I wonder if it’s served in Styrofoam cups?)

We also know that 180 grand is a real, real lot for a cup of coffee, even with the leader of the free economy. How over the top is $180,000 (with 20 days of bidding to go) for a CEO sitdown? Consider Elon Musk, who’s CEO of a bucketful of companies. A meeting with Musk is currently at $7,500 on CharityBuzz.

But, hey, it’s not a competition. (Can you imagine a couple of high-tech CEOs behaving competitively about something like who’s worth more?)

Speaking of which, also up for auction to benefit the RFK  is actor Robert De Niro ($2,000), Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning ($5,250), Alec Baldwin ($2,000) and country singer Carrie Underwood ($500). (You can get them as a package deal for a fraction of what it will cost to meet Cook.)

So how did this whole thing come about? If history is a guide, chances are Ethel Kennedy, RFK’s widow, or some other center rep approached Cook and asked if he’d put himself up for sale.

“Each year we work closely with the center to craft these incredible auctions,” Felden said. “And because it’s Ethel Kennedy and (daughter and center president) Kerry Kennedy, and they have this stellar reputation, we get a lot of top celebrities and business leaders and politicians to support them.”

A cynic would say the charity auction provides a nice glow for Apple, which has come under harsh criticism for poor working conditions in its contractors’ factories in China. (The company also has been cheered recently for improvements there.) And given its super-secret culture, Apple doesn’t have to face questions about the connection.

Or  it could be that Cook just likes a good cup of coffee.

 

Mike Cassidy Mike Cassidy (173 Posts)

I write about the culture of Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News.