Blog Post

Bob Mansfield, head of iPhone, iPad, Mac hardware, to retire

Another Apple(s AAPL) executive who was part of Steve Jobs’ inner circle at Apple is heading out the door. This time it’s Bob Mansfield, the SVP for Hardware Engineering. Apple announced Thursday afternoon that he will be retiring. No date was given for his exit.

Replacing Mansfield in his role heading up the crucial iPhone and iPad engineering teams will be his longtime deputy Dan Riccio, who’s been VP of iPad Hardware Engineering. The transition to Mansfield’s role will take “several months,” according to Apple’s release.

“Bob has been an instrumental part of our executive team, leading the hardware engineering organization and overseeing the team that has delivered dozens of breakthrough products over the years,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a press release. “We are very sad to have him leave and hope he enjoys every day of his retirement.”

As for Riccio, Cook calls him “well respected within Apple and by the industry.”

Mansfield joined Apple in 1999 when the company he worked for, Raycer Graphics, was acquired by Apple. In 2005 he began to lead the Mac hardware engineering team. Five years later he also began overseeing the hardware teams working on the iPhone and the iPod, and eventually the iPad when it was first introduced.

Mansfield got a swift promotion to SVP when Apple parted ways with Mark Papermaster, whom it had brought into Apple to be SVP of mobile hardware. Papermaster exited the company following so-called “Antenna-gate,” the public relations disaster that ensued following the release of the iPhone 4 in 2010, clearing the way for Mansfield, the Mac hardware chief, to take over all hardware engineering responsibilities.

His retirement marks the second high-profile member of Apple’s senior staff to leave the company in the last year. Ron Johnson, the SVP responsible for Apple’s retail stores, left Apple and in November 2011 became CEO of J.C. Penney. He announced he accepted the new role outside of Apple several months before Jobs officially stepped down at Apple.

But Mansfield’s exit is emblematic of one of Cook’s biggest challenges while leading Apple in the post-Jobs era: keeping intact the team that got them to where they are now. It’s odd to announce a valued executive’s retirement without any sense of specific timing of his departure. One possible explanation: he’ll be leaving once the iPhone 5 is out the door and Apple doesn’t want to give any specific dates for the device’s launch yet. Either way, Cook is clearly aiming to project a sense of continuity by emphasizing in his talking points how closely Riccio and Mansfield have worked together in the past and how Mansfield will guide his replacement through the transition.

Also on Thursday, Apple announced that Betsy Rafael, VP, Corporate Controller and Principal Accounting Officer, will be retiring as well. Her departure is set for October 19, per an SEC filing.