Former Apple hardware VP sues over his dismissal
Tim Bucher, Apple's former senior vice president of Macintosh Hardware Engineering, is suing the company for termination without cause. In a copy of the court document obtained by MacCentral, Bucher said that Apple made his termination effective retroactively, thus depriving him of stock options he was vested in prior to his dismissal.
Representing Bucher, San Jose, Calif.-based firm Hopkins & Carley filed a complaint for damages in Santa Clara County Superior Court in early February, several weeks after Bucher filed a discrimination complaint alleging that his termination was the result of "perception that he suffers from a disability."
"The evidence in this case demonstrates that there was no cause for Bucher's termination," said Hopkins & Carley lead counsel Dan Pyne in a prepared statement. "During his nearly two years at Apple, he did an outstanding job for the company and was well-regarded by colleagues on the Macintosh team. This is a case of a senior executive being treated differently than his peers and falling victim to a corporate power play. We are confident that when the facts of this case are evaluated by a jury, we will prevail."
Bucher started at Apple in March, 2003 as vice president of Macintosh Systems Development. Bucher is the founder and chairman of Mirra Inc., a developer of backup server products aimed at home users and small businesses. Bucher was an original engineering team executive for WebTV and also served as former senior vice president of Consumer Products at Microsoft Corp.
Bucher said that during his time at Apple he received stock options, regular salary increases and enrollment in an executive bonus program. In May, 2004, Bucher was promoted to senior vice president of Macintosh Hardware Engineering when Apple reorganized its corporate structure into separate iPod and Macintosh divisions. It was during that time, according to Pyne, that Bucher oversaw the development of Apple's Mac mini.
By November, however, Bucher said it was clear that the termination of his job was imminent: He recounts a conversation with Apple executive vice president of Worldwide Sales and Operations Tim Cook in which Bucher was allegedly told "it's not going to work."
Bucher's lawyers allege that shortly after Cook and Bucher spoke, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told Bucher that people thought Bucher was "sometimes manic depressive," and that his coworkers didn't "know how to handle that." "Mr. Jobs then added, 'I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but I think I'm going to have to ask you to leave the Company,'" reads the document.
The axe fell on November 14, 2004, said Bucher, when Tim Cook told him to resign or he'd be terminated. In early January, Bucher received a formal letter noting his discharge from the company effective December 31, 2004, along with a final paycheck.
That final check "... did not include any money paid pursuant to the 2005 Executive Bonus Plan for the fiscal quarter ended on or about December 31, 2004," reads the complaint. "Apple also cancelled the stock options scheduled to vest on January 1, 2005 and refused to permit the plaintiff to exercise them."
The complaint cites six causes of action, including breach of contract for failing to accelerate vesting of restricted stock; breach of contract for failure to pay a bonus; breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; discrimination; termination in violation of public policy and violation of California Labor Code section 201.