Two years after fighting in court to hire him, Apple has let IBM’s Mark Papermaster go



Mark Papermaster. Photo: Apple Inc.

It was one of the most contentious hires Apple AAPL ever made.

In November 2008, Steve Jobs hired Mark Papermaster, IBM’s IBM top microprocessor executive, to replace Tony Fadell as head of the iPod and iPhone division. IBM promptly filed a complaint in federal court to prevent Papermaster from leaving, arguing that he possessed highly confidential IBM trade secrets. The dispute — which made headlines for weeks — wasn’t settled until the following January in a deal that required Papermaster to wait until April 2009 to join Apple.

Sixteen months later, Papermaster is out, replaced as head of the iPhone division by the man who originally recruited him, Bob Mansfield.

The news was reported by the
New York Times
and confirmed by Steve Dowling, head of Apple PR.

Papermaster, Dowling told the Times, “is leaving the company and Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, is assuming his responsibilities.”

Papermaster’s sudden departure immediately set off speculation that it was somehow related to the iPhone 4’s widely publicized antenna problems. Given that he was the head of the division that produced the phone, it’s a conclusion that’s hard to avoid.

UPDATE: Papermaster’s problems began long before antennagate, according to several reports. See here.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]