Sir Jonathan ‘Jony’ Ive.
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The announcement of the impending departure of longtime Apple longtime design leader Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive came as little surprise to Wall Street analysts but it did drag on the company’s stock nonetheless.
Shares of Apple slipped 1% in early trading Friday from Thursday’s close of $199.74.
Apple said he is leaving later this year to start an independent design company that “will count Apple among its primary clients.”
Analysts rued the announcement, as Ive had been with Apple for nearly 30 years. As Apple’s chief design officer, Ive styled the vast majority of Apple products over the past two decades, including the iPhone.
“In our judgment, we view Jony Ive as one of the most important people at AAPL and perhaps second only to CEO Tim Cook presently in terms of impact to AAPL’s success,” Deutsche Bank said in a note to investors.
Nomura Instinet analysts called his leaving “a sentimental negative,” as “he represents a particularly strong connection to Apple iconic heritage.”
“His departure, therefore, should prompt much nostalgia, and may lead some investors to question Apple’s ability to retain leading industrial design,” Nomura said.
However, the analysts did not see this as a significant enough loss to the company to adjust their ratings or price targets. Nomura said the firm believes “this a sensible and even expected time for Mr. Ive to disengage,” while Evercore ISI said there will be little impact beyond the slight negative from the announcement.
“While Mr. Ive’s departure is a headline negative for the stock, given AAPL’s deep design bench and future relationship with Mr. Ive’s new company, we think any impact should be fairly limited,” Evercore ISI said.
Here’s what every major analyst had to say about Ive’s departure.
Deutsche Bank’s Jeriel Ong – Hold rating, $205 price target
“In our judgment, we view Jony Ive as one of the most important people at AAPL and perhaps second only to CEO Tim Cook presently in terms of impact to AAPL’s success. He has marked his design style/skill on nearly every AAPL product in the last 20 years, ranging from the iMac to the iPhone/iPad, and to the Apple Watch and HomePod speaker in recent years … While it could be viewed as a bit sensational to claim that 1 employee out of 132,000 full-time equivalent employees at AAPL (and another 17M supplier employees who build AAPL products/components) could be this important to AAPL, we see Ive’s contributions to AAPL products as central to the company’s design-centric strategy, which has propelled it to one of the largest companies in the world over the last 20 years. We are confident that AAPL can find others internally to fill some of his responsibilities, while what can’t be filled by other subordinates, could be supported by what Ive’s new company, LoveFrom, will contribute to AAPL’s process externally when the firm launches in 2020.”
Cowen’s Krish Sankar – Outperform rating, $220 price target
“We view Sir Ive’s departure as disadvantageous for the company. But AAPL is undertaking a transition from being focused on hardware products to services and content. While it remains unclear how Apple’s future hardware product innovation may be impacted without Ive, the multiple stakeholders that will be tasked with design decisions going forward will undoubtedly open a new chapter in Apple’s design language. Sir Ive will continue to work with Apple on exclusive projects in his new proprietorship.”
Nomura Instinet’s Jeffrey Kvaal – Neutral rating, $175 price target
“While investors may rue a resignation of a long-time executive, we consider this a sensible and even expected time for Mr. Ive to disengage, at least officially … an essential design influence for close to 30 years. Mr. Ive and his small team of designers played a vital role in Apple’s industrial design across products ranging from the Newton, iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Mr. Ive was understood to share a similar design aesthetic with Steve Jobs, which allowed a close collaboration. Mr. Ive’s departure is a sentimental negative. He represents a particularly strong connection to Apple iconic heritage given his intimate role in developing many of Apple seminal products and of course his tight bond with Mr. Jobs himself. His departure, therefore, should prompt much nostalgia, and may lead some investors to question Apple’s ability to retain leading industrial design.”
Evercore ISI’s Amit Daryanani – Outperform rating, $215 price target
“We think any potential impact from Mr. Ive’s departure should be manageable given: 1) Mr. Ive is leaving to start his own independent design company, of which AAPL will be a key client and 2) Apple’s design team leaders Evans Hankey (VP of Industrial Design) and Alan Dye (VP of Human Interface Design) will remain in their leadership roles … While Mr. Ive’s departure is a headline negative for the stock, given AAPL’s deep design bench and future relationship with Mr. Ive’s new company, we think any impact should be fairly limited.”
– CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.