NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Last week, Apple ( AAPL) granted several key executives -- including Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, Peter Oppenheimer, and Bob Mansfield -- large Restricted Stock Unit (RSU) grants that vest over five years. They are essentially golden handcuffs that highly motivate these men to stick around in this post-Steve Jobs era. One senior executive notably absent from the list is Jony Ive. I hope it doesn't portend Ive's departure. We'll see some SEC filing in the coming days or weeks about a similar grant to him.
Jony Ive is the key product and design person at Apple. In Walter Isaacson's book on Steve Jobs, it's clear how important Jony is at Apple. Jobs' wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, said of the special bond between Steve and Jony: "A lot of people in Steve's are replaceable. Not Jony." Jobs held Jony in very high regard. He rescued Jony from the old Apple and convinced him to stay after Jobs came back to the company in 1997. Even though no one outside of Apple had heard of Jony then, the two men formed a special bond and collaborated together on the iMacs, iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Jony's design lab in Apple's Cupertino headquarters is under lockdown from outside visitors. It's likely that today, in that lab, there are the products that will amaze us from Apple (in some form) for the next 15 years. At the recent company-wide memorial for Jobs at Apple, Jony gave -- in my view -- the best speech about Steve. Jony found it hard when Steve left the company before on his medical leaves. There's a story in Isaacson's book about how Jony met Steve at the airport in Silicon Valley after Steve returned from his liver transplant in Memphis. It's clear that Jony missed him, but was also bothered by the fact that many outside of Apple wondered if the company could be as "innovative" without Steve. Jony took it as a slight. I hope that Jony now has his time to shine in the sun over the next several years at Apple -- along with all the other talented Apple executives.