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Why Jony left Apple in the hands of the ‘accountants’

The new arrangement freed Mr. Ive from regular trips to the company’s Cupertino offices. He went from almost daily product reviews to an irregular schedule where weeks went by without reviewing. Sometimes word got around the studio that he was going to show up at the office unexpectedly. Employees compared the moments that followed to vintage footage of the 1920s stock market crash with papers thrown into the air and people running furiously to prepare for it.

With anticipation building on Wall Street for a 10th-anniversary iPhone in early 2017, Mr. Ive summoned the company’s top software designers to San Francisco for a product review. A team of about 20 people arrived at the city’s exclusive social club, The Battery, and began distributing 11-by-17-inch prints of design ideas in the club’s penthouse. They needed Mr. Ive’s approval for several features in the first full-screen iPhone.

They waited for almost three hours that day for Mr. Ive. When he finally arrived, he didn’t apologize. He reviewed his impressions and offered comments. He then left without making any final decisions.. As his work stalled, many wondered: How did it come to this?

In Mr. Ive’s absence, Mr. Cook began to reshape the company in his image. He replaced the company’s outgoing CEO, Mickey Drexler, the talented salesman who built Gap and J. Crew, with James Bell, the former chief financial officer of Boeing. Ive was furious that a left-brained executive had supplanted one of the few right-brained leaders on the board. “He’s another one of those accountants,” he complained to a colleague.

Mr. Cook also encouraged the company’s finance department, which began auditing outside contractors. At one point, the department rejected a legitimate billing submitted by Foster + Partners, the architecture firm working closely with Mr. Ive to complete the company’s new $5 billion campus, Apple Park.

Amid those struggles, Cook began to broaden Apple’s strategy to sell more services. During a corporate retreat in 2017, Mr. Ive stepped out for some fresh air when an Apple newcomer named Peter Stern introduced himself to the company’s top leaders. Stern clicked on a slide of an X-shaped chart that showed Apple’s profit margins on sales of iPhones, iPads, and Macs shrinking, while profit margins rose on sales of software and services like its storage. iCloud.

The presentation alarmed some people in the audience. It represented a future in which Ive, and the company’s business as a product manufacturer, would matter less and Cook’s growing emphasis on services, such as Apple Music and iCloud, would matter more.