A behind-the-scenes operator often seen at the side of Jobs and current Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, Cotton, who held the title of vice president of worldwide corporate communications, helped cultivate Apple’s secretive culture. The company selectively gives out interviews with senior executives, often in exchange for prime placement on magazine covers or television broadcasts. Strict rules also prohibit rank-and-file employees from talking to the media.
Cotton has “given her all to this company for over 18 years,” Apple said in a statement, adding that she has “wanted to spend time with her children for some time now.”
The retirement is the latest change to Apple’s executive ranks under Cook. Several lieutenants of Jobs, including former retail chief Ron Johnson and mobile software head Scott Forstall, have left the Cupertino, California-based company, while Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer and hardware engineering head Bob Mansfield also are stepping down. Cook has brought on new executives, including former Burberry Group Plc CEO Angela Ahrendts to run retail and former Xerox Corp. executive Luca Maestri to be CFO.
Cotton’s tenure coincided with Apple’s rise from technology industry also-ran to its biggest player, fueled by sales of products such as iPhones and iPads.
Yet she also faced off with the media during some of the company’s most challenging periods. She was fiercely protective of Jobs when the Apple co-founder was grappling with a rare form of pancreatic cancer that required him to take leaves of absence. Apple was criticized at the time for not providing details on his condition, even with inquiries from shareholders.
When Jobs died in 2011, Cotton helped organize the memorial service at Apple’s headquarters, which featured performances by musical artists including Coldplay.
Apple didn’t announce a replacement for Cotton. Next month, the company will hold its annual developer conference in San Francisco, where it will unveil new software for devices.
Cotton’s retirement was reported earlier today by technology blog Recode.
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