Morten Hansen

Apple University hires another high-profile academic

February 13, 2013: 1:16 PM ET

Berkeley's Morten Hansen, co-author of Jim Collins' latest bestseller, joined in January

Hansen

Hansen

FORTUNE -- Apple University has always been something of a stealth operation. It was created as a kind of in-house MBA program by Steve Jobs, a self-taught business leader who made no secret of his distaste for conventional MBAs.

"We do want to create our own MBAs," Jobs once said. "But in our own image."

The idea was to somehow transfer to future generations of Apple (AAPL) executives the hard lessons he learned when he founded the company, lost the company, and brought it back to life.

He started big.

In 2008, he hired Joel Podolny, the controversial dean of the Yale School of Management, who promptly went into what Adam Lashinsky described in Inside Apple as a kind of witness protection program, clamming up to friends and former colleagues alike.

Podolny, in turn, hired Harvard University's Richard Tedlow, one of the preeminent U.S. business historians. After 23 years at Harvard, Tedlow left in 2011 without so much as a press release to join Apple full time.

Now comes word that the company has lured another prominent academic to One Infinite Loop.

According to a profile published three weeks ago in the weekend edition of Verdens Gang, Norway's second largest newspaper, the company has hired Morten T. Hansen, a rising star at UC Berkeley's School of Information and the co-author with Jim Collins of the 2011 bestseller Great by Choice.

According to Kjetil Lyche, the New York-based Norwegian journalist who wrote the VG piece, Hansen was approached by Podolny in 2009, and because Jobs was too sick to meet, he had a face-to-face with Tim Cook and Jony Ive. They offered him a full-time job, but he turned them down; he and Collins had been working on Great by Choice for seven years and they still weren't finished.

He was more receptive when Apple approached him again before last Christmas. He was hired without an interview and started on Jan. 28, having negotiated an arrangement where he gets to stay at Berkeley to teach one course a semester.

Hansen won't talk about what he does at Apple, beyond saying that he gives seminars and advice, but he did tell Lyche a little about what he found when he got to Cupertino.

"Believe me, there are many talented people there," he says. "It's not like it was just Steve Jobs who ran the company."

But he adds, Apple is primarily an engineering company, and an engineering background doesn't automatically qualify you for managing a multibillion dollar enterprise.

He estimates that of the company's 70,000 employees, 800 are currently in leadership positions or are potential future leaders.

He's working now with an elite group that he describes as "the best there is" at Apple.

We requested an interview, but haven't heard back.

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