Apple ends consulting contract with Jony Ive, its former design leader

SAN FRANCISCO — When Jony Ive, Apple’s influential head of design, left the company in 2019, its CEO, Tim Cook, reassured customers that Mr. Ive, the man who brought candy-colored computers to the world, would work exclusively with many Years.

No longer.

According to two people with knowledge of their contractual arrangement, Mr. Ive and Apple have agreed to end the collaboration, ending a three-decade run in which the designer helped define every rounded corner of an iPhone and spearheaded the development of its only new product category in recent years the Apple Watch.

When Mr. Ive left Apple in 2019 to start his own design company, LoveFrom, the iPhone maker signed him to a multi-year deal worth more than $100 million. That made Apple his company’s main customer, people with knowledge of the deal said.

In recent weeks, when the contract was up for renewal, the parties agreed not to renew it. Some Apple executives had wondered how much the company was paying Mr. Ive and had become frustrated after several of its designers left to join Mr. Ive’s company. And Mr. Ive wanted the freedom to accept customers without needing Apple’s approval, these people said.

Through a spokeswoman, Mr Ive, 55, declined to comment. Apple also declined to comment.

Before leaving Apple in June 2019, Mr. Ive was disillusioned as Mr. Cook pushed the ever-growing company to focus more on operations than big design leaps, according to more than a dozen people who had worked closely with Mr. Ive. The designer switched to a part-time position as Mr. Cook focused on selling more software and services.

In July 2019, Mr. Cook called the reporting of Mr. Ive’s frustration at Apple “absurd” and said it “distorted relationships, decisions and events.”

Mr. Cook’s strategy has been endorsed by investors, who have increased Apple’s market valuation by $1.5 trillion in just over two years, though some analysts have criticized it for the slack in launches of revolutionary devices.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, will continue to oversee the company’s design teams, with industrial design being led by Evans Hankey and software design by Alan Dye. Apple’s product marketing team, led by Greg Joswiak, senior vice president of marketing, has taken a pivotal role in product selection.

Mr. Ive’s company LoveFrom will continue to work with clients such as Airbnb and Ferrari, and Mr. Ive will continue his personal work with the Sustainable Markets Initiative, Prince Charles’ non-profit organization focused on climate change.

Born and raised outside of London, Mr. Ive joined Apple in 1992 and rose to lead the design team. The company was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1997 when Steve Jobs hired Mr. Ive’s team to design the iMac. The bulbous, translucent computer became the fastest-selling desktop in history at the time. It restored Apple’s business and made Mr. Ive Mr. Jobs’ closest associate.

“He’s not just a designer,” Mr. Jobs told his biographer Walter Isaacson. “He has more operational power than anyone at Apple except me.”

Mr. Ive also developed the iPod’s white earbuds that inspired Apple’s dancing silhouette advertising campaign, and he helped develop the iPhone’s touchscreen technology.

After Mr Jobs died of cancer in 2011, Mr Ive led the development of the Apple Watch. The product failed to meet initial sales expectations, but it created a wearables business that generated $38 billion in sales last year.

In 2015, Mr Ive approached Mr Cook about leaving Apple, according to four people familiar with the conversation. The designer was exhausted building the consensus needed to produce the Apple Watch, these people said. Mr. Cook agreed to let Mr. Ive work part-time.

Four years later, Mr. Ive and Mr. Cook announced that the designer was leaving Apple to create LoveFrom. In a statement at the time, Mr Cook said: “I am delighted that our relationship is continuing to develop and I look forward to working with Jony well into the future.”

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