Apple Design Guru Considers Move To UK

Jony Ive’s desire to move back to the UK could force Apple’s board to make its working policies more flexible

Apple’s British-born head designer Jonathan Ive, credited with being the creative genius behind the iPad, iPhone and iPod, is reportedly at “loggerheads” with the company’s board, over his wish to move back to the UK.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, Ive and his wife are planning to move to England to raise their children and send them to British schools. Ive has proposed a plan to “commute” to Cupertino, California, from his £2.5million Georgian manor house in Somerset.

However, Apple’s board is reportedly opposing the move. The newspaper quoted a ‘friend of the family’ as saying: “He is just too valuable to Apple and they told him in no uncertain terms that if he headed back to England he would not be able to sustain his position with them.”

Apple’s design mastermind

Ive is already due an £18 million payout from Apple, as part of a “golden handcuffs” deal he struck with the company three years ago, which has now expired. The payout will put the 44-year-old’s personal fortune at £80 million.

Ive (left) was born in Chingford, London, and studied Industrial Design at Northumbria University (then known as Newcastle Polytechnic). He began his career at London-based design consultancy Tangerine, where he worked on a wide range of products from power tools to wash basins. In 1992 he moved to the US to work for Apple as their chief designer.

Ive gained his current job title when Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997, and since then has headed the Industrial Design team responsible for most of the company’s significant hardware products. In 2005 he was named as one of Britain’s most influential expatriates by the Sunday Times.

“Ive may not be the richest or the most senior figure on the list, but he has certainly been one of the most influential as the man who designed the iPod,” said the newspaper at the time.

Apple’s CEO replacement?

A move to the UK would almost certainly take Ive out of the running for the job of Apple chief executive, if Steve Jobs steps down permanently due to health issues. Ive is currently rumoured to be one of the front runners for the position, alongside COO Tim Cook, following the news earlier this year that Jobs would be taking a second medical leave of absence.

Meanwhile, Apple shareholders are continuing to put pressure on the company to publish a CEO succession plan, although the company’s annual general meeting last week rejected proposals from shareholders to publish a succession plan openly.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) said it would continue to push Apple to release its succession plan, claiming that its members “deserve to have their retirement savings invested in stable, responsible companies”.

Amid Apple’s management turmoil, the company is expected to unveil its next-generation iPad 2 this week. Apple revealed earlier this year that sales of its first tablet device hit 7.33 million in its fiscal 2011 first quarter, which closed on Christmas Day.