Apple CEO Tim Cook says he's proud to be gay.

The public declaration, in an essay written for Bloomberg Businessweek, makes Cook the highest-profile business CEO to come out.

Cook said that while he never denied his sexuality, he never publicly acknowledged it, either. The executive said that for years he's been open with many people about his sexual orientation and that plenty of his Apple colleagues know he is gay.

Cook wrote in the column published Thursday that it wasn't an easy choice to publicly disclose that he is gay, but that he felt the acknowledgement could potentially help others.

"I've come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important," he wrote.

Cook added that he considers "being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."

The executive said he's been lucky to work for a company that "loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people's differences."

Cook said that he will continue to focus on being the best CEO he can be and will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people.