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

Katie Cotton, who as Apple’s longtime communications chief guarded the media’s 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, Calif. She was 57.

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

Ms. Cotton, who built a culture of mystery by saying relatively little, if anything, to reporters, joined Apple in 1996 and began working with Mr. Jobs the next year, soon after he returned to the company after 12 years away. Apple was in poor financial shape at the time, but Ms. Cotton worked with Mr. Jobs to engineer a striking turnaround.

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

“She was formidable and tough and very protective of both Apple’s brand and Steve, particularly when he got sick,” Walt Mossberg, a former technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, said in a phone interview, referring to Mr. Jobs’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2004. He added: “She was one of the few people he trusted implicitly. He listened to her. She could pull him back from something he intended to do or say.”

Ms. Cotton spoke tersely, if at all, when reporters questioned her, but she could be helpful when speaking off the record or on background.

“She was accessible, she was a point of contact, but sometimes it was hand-to-hand combat if they wanted to convey a story to the world and it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell,” John Markoff, a former technology reporter for The New York Times, said by phone.

Ms. Cotton also chose which reporters could speak to Mr. Jobs (even though he would occasionally speak, on his own, to journalists he knew well). In 1997 she invited a Newsweek reporter, Katie Hafner, to watch the first commercial in Apple’s new “Think Different” advertising campaign, along with Mr. Jobs.

A tribute to “the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels and the troublemakers,” a narrator intoned as the commercial opened with a still picture of Mr. Jobs holding an apple in his left hand and continued with clips of people who changed the world, among them Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, John Lennon, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Edison and Muhammad Ali.

She continued to work for Mr. Jobs, while saying little publicly about his health problems, until his death in 2011, and then worked for Tim Cook, his successor, until she retired in 2014.

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

When it finished, Ms. Cotton was weeping.

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

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