Apple Ends Consulting Agreement With Jony Ive, Its Former Design Lead

SAN FRANCISCO — When Jony Ive, Apple’s influential design leader, left the company in 2019, CEO Tim Cook assured customers that Mr. Ive, the man who gave the world candy-colored computers, I would work exclusively with the company for many years.

Not anymore.

Mr. Ive and Apple have agreed to stop working together, according to two people with knowledge of their contractual arrangement, ending a three-decade career during which the designer helped define every rounded corner of an iPhone and guided the development of his iPhone. single category of new product. in recent years, the Apple Watch.

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

In recent weeks, with the contract about to be renewed, the parties agreed not to extend it. Some Apple executives had questioned how much the company paid Ive and grew frustrated after several of its designers left to join Ive’s firm. And Mr. Ive wanted the freedom to accept customers without authorization from Apple, these people said.

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

Before leaving Apple in June 2019, Ive had been disillusioned when Cook made the ever-huge company focus more on operations than big design breakthroughs, according to more than a dozen people who worked closely with Ive. . The designer shifted to a part-time position while Cook focused on selling more software and services.

In July 2019, Cook called news coverage of Ive’s frustrations with Apple “preposterous” and said it “distorts relationships, decisions and events.”

Cook’s strategy has been validated by investors who added $1.5 trillion to Apple’s market valuation in just over two years, even as some analysts have chided her for pausing to introduce breakthrough devices.

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

Mr. Ive’s firm, 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, the non-profit organization led by Prince Charles that focuses on the climate change.

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

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

Mr. Ive also developed the white iPod earphones, which inspired Apple’s dancing silhouette advertising campaign, and supported the creation of the iPhone’s touchscreen technology.

After Jobs’s death from cancer in 2011, Ive spearheaded the development of the Apple Watch. The product failed to meet initial sales expectations, but it did create a wearable device business that generated $38 billion in revenue last year.

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

Four years later, Ive and Cook announced that the designer would be leaving Apple to create LoveFrom. In a statement at the time, Mr Cook said: “I am happy that our relationship continues to evolve and I look forward to working with Jony in the future.”

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