Shedding light on Apple exec drama: Why SVP Bob Mansfield unretired

bobmansfield

There was some serious drama at 1 Infinite Loop this summer: Longtime SVP of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield retired. Then he suddenly un-retired. A Bloomberg Businessweek article published Wednesday sheds light on what happened. It turns out that there was a near-mutiny by Mansfield’s employees over having to report to his replacement.

It did seem a bit odd at the time that Apple announced Mansfield’s retirement at the end of June, but didn’t give a date he’d be leaving. They did name one of his longtime deputies as his replacement. But it was surprising that two months later he reversed his decision, vowing to stay on as an advisor to CEO Tim Cook.

In the ensuing time after Mansfield’s retirement announcement, things apparently got a little awkward in Cupertino, according to the report:

According to three people familiar with the sequence of events, several senior engineers on Mansfield’s team vociferously complained to Cook about reporting to his replacement, Dan Riccio, who they felt was unprepared for the magnitude of the role.

But Cook had already announced Riccio would succeed Mansfield as head of iPad and iPhone engineering. So Cook did what he had to do to keep the peace:

In response, Cook approached Mansfield and offered him an exorbitant package of cash and stock worth around $2 million a month to stay on at Apple as an adviser and help manage the hardware engineering team.

As embarrassing as this episode is for such a secretive company like Apple, it at least does one thing: it reinforces Cook’s ability to seal the deal when he needs to.

The Businessweek piece has a few other good nuggets of detail, including:

  • Cook has given his executive team huge bonuses to convince them stay on at Apple. The report says they’re worth $100 million total.
  • There’s been some internal infighting that Cook’s had to mediate.
  • Steve Jobs had considered removing Google as a search option in the iPhone, but thought users would be unhappy about it.
  • Apple has thought about moving away from Intel chips in its Mac lineup.

The whole piece is worth a read to get an understanding of what Cook has had to do to keep Apple on track following Jobs’ death a year ago Friday.

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