NYT: Consulting Agreement Ends Between Apple and Jony Ive’s LoveFrom

Tripp Mickle, with a scoop for The New York Times:

Mr. Ive and Apple have agreed to stop working together, according to two people with knowledge of their contractual agreement, ending a three-decade run during which the designer helped define every rounded corner of an iPhone and guided 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 firm, LoveFrom, the iPhone maker signed a multiyear contract with him valued at more than $100 million. That made Apple his firm’s primary client, people with knowledge of the agreement said.

The deal restricted Mr. Ive from taking on work that Apple found competitive and ensured that the designer would inform the development of future products, such as an augmented-reality headset that it is expected to ship next year, the people said.

In recent weeks, with the contract coming up for renewal, the parties agreed not to extend it. Some Apple executives had questioned how much the company was paying Mr. Ive and had grown frustrated after several of its designers left to join Mr. Ive’s firm. And Mr. Ive wanted the freedom to take on clients without needing Apple’s clearance, these people said.

It remains unclear (to me at least) how much Ive (and LoveFrom) have been involved with Apple over the last three years, so it’s unclear whether the lapsing of this formal consulting agreement is largely symbolic, or if it marks a true parting of the ways.

Update: I’m hearing, from a few sources, that LoveFrom’s involvement with Apple has been more than symbolic over the past three years — which makes sense! — and that Apple folks have been reviewing new product designs with Ive as recently as a few months ago. This story in The New York Times is the first a lot of people inside Apple have heard about the purported breakup.

Update 2: A better question: Which side leaked this to Mickle? I’m thinking it was someone at Apple, not LoveFrom. The begrudgingness regarding LoveFrom’s high consulting fees certainly makes it sound like the leak came from Apple. Not a strategic leak, necessarily, but perhaps just someone at Apple who has Mickle’s ear. Strategically, I think Apple would have preferred to let the dissolution of this partnership go unnoticed. But it’s an interesting question.

Tuesday, 12 July 2022