'Big-breasted women' remark ends 22-year career at Apple

From Mark Gurman's "Top Apple Executive Is Leaving After Making Crude Remarks in TikTok Video" posted Thursday on the Bloomberg:

One of Apple Inc.’s most senior executives is leaving after he turned up in a viral video on TikTok making an off-color joke that he fondles “big-breasted women” for a living.

In the video, published on Sept. 5, Apple’s Tony Blevins was approached by TikTok and Instagram creator Daniel Mac as part of a series where he asks owners of expensive cars their occupations. The executive was stopped by Mac while parking a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, an out-of-production sports car that fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When asked what he does for a living, Blevins said, “I have rich cars, play golf and fondle big-breasted women, but I take weekends and major holidays off,” according to the video’s captions. He also touted that he has a “hell of a dental plan”...

His remarks in the 25-second clip reference a line from the 1981 movie Arthur, where main character Arthur Bach describes his own career: “I race cars, play tennis and fondle women, but I have weekends off and I am my own boss.”

My take: That's one way to get cancelled at Apple.

Fun fact: While the NYT's Tripp Mickle was still at the Wall Street Journal he profiled Blevins as a possible successor to Tim Cook. See "Jobs, Cook, Ive—Blevins? The Rise of Apple’s Cost Cutter"

28 Comments

  1. Greg Lippert said:
    Where’s our sense of of humor gone? Jeez…

    6
    September 30, 2022
  2. Bart Yee said:
    Sadly, IMO and experience, this behavior and comment, regardless of the flippancy and supposed “humor” of the comment referencing an 1981 movie (which now doesn’t hold up), is not difficult to understand for an older adult male of that or this era.

    Apparently he couldn’t think before he spoke, couldn’t see quickly this wouldn’t play with the public, with Apple employees of all types, and with Apple management and his immediate supervisor COO Jeff Williams. He didn’t think to tell/ask the videographer to delete and never use or publish, and didn’t stop it prior to release. He may have been clowning around playing the rich and powerful guy (which he is) for laughs, but it was, with his knowledge, getting put down on video record. One would think that with events over the past 20 years, he would recognize that’s not a recipe for ongoing success or employment, especially for a company like Apple and its stated people goals and policies.

    Doesn’t matter if you’re at Pebble Beach showing off your expensive car or insensitive comments, you’re still a representative and VP for Apple (even on your downtime) and expected to behave like one, at least these days. Despite relative obscurity, you’re well known now, out of a job, and lost the rest of your non-vested stock options. At least he took ownership of this behavior in his outgoing statement. In my opinion.

    9
    September 30, 2022
  3. Christopher McManus said:
    It was a fu***** joke. WTF Apple

    4
    September 30, 2022
  4. Bart Yee said:
    More detail if not able to open the Bloomberg link:

    apple.news/AA5155QMWREC5neprSEhHGA

    1
    September 30, 2022
  5. Peter Kropf said:
    I think he’s the type of guy I’d like to know. I guess that’s why Jeff never hired me.

    1
    September 30, 2022
  6. Jerry Doyle said:
    Tony Blevins, Apple’s Procurement Blevinator, is a key asset to the company’s supply chain operations success. No one condones his verbiage in this TicTok video, especially Mr. Blevins in retrospect. What is this sense of propriety when this occurrence happened away from Apple business, made no reference to Apple, and Mr. Blevins didn’t even mention whom he worked for or his name but felt relaxed attending a fun weekend event while making a frivolous risqué commentary spoofing a movie scene from the past when asked a question from an enabler desiring a dysfunctional comment and getting one back? This is not a reason for terminating the guy! If we terminated everyone who behaved similarly at some point in their lives, then the offices and WFH unemployed would stretch for miles.

    I am very disappointed with Jeff Williams and Tim Cook. This woke culture crap has gone way too far! Tony Blevins needed to apologize profusely and with sincerity. Little doubt it would be a sincere apology. Tony Blevins learned from this unfortunate occurrence. But to fire the man for this isolated occurrence! Stupid!

    7
    September 30, 2022
    • S Lawton said:
      Because he is in a position of power he should be excused? How do the women who work with or for him think of such statements. And with 22 years with Apple I doubt this termination will put him on the breadlines.

      5
      September 30, 2022
      • Jerry Doyle said:
        @S Lawton: “…. Because he is in a position of power he should be excused?”

        Did I say the above Ms. Lawton? Of course I did not say the above and you are putting a “spin-on-exoneration” for Mr. Blevins into my comment that does not exists. Revisit my comment and read what I wrote.

        If Mr. Blevins is sincerely sorry for his tasteless comment, then he should be allowed to make a “public” apology for his flippant remark. Apple internally should reprimand him along with penalizing him in a way as to send a message, perhaps foregoing his annual bonus and stock options reward, or whatever.

        If this is an isolated event and no other such occurrences have been reported against Mr. Blevins and no patterns of miscreant behavior manifested on or off the job by Mr. Blevins, then yes, an initial occurrence of this errant remark can be forgiven; and should be forgiven. It is not in my nature to go around destroying an employee’s career. When I walked into the break room one afternoon and overheard some women employees discussing a male staffer’s buttocks I didn’t run down to HR and file a complaint against those ladies.

        To fire an employee for an errant one-time isolated behavior event away from the job seems heartless; as heartless as my filing a complaint against those women staffers demanding they be removed from their respective positions for fear they also are analyzing my buttocks while I’m at work!

        3
        September 30, 2022
      • S Lawton said:
        ” Did I say the above Ms. Lawton? Of course I did not say the above and you are putting a “spin-on-exoneration” for Mr. Blevins into my comment that does not exists. Revisit my comment and read what I wrote.”
        Sure sounded like it to me.Else why mention his worth to Apple? You wrote

        ” Tony Blevins, Apple’s Procurement Blevinator, is a key asset to the company’s supply chain operations success. “Tony Blevins, Apple’s Procurement Blevinator, is a key asset to the company’s supply chain operations success.”

        1
        September 30, 2022
  7. Rick Povich said:
    Oh, my, I’m off to my safe space! What a bunch of maroons. Now, for contrast, a specimen like Cardi B is wholesome and aspirational. Uh huh. Had Blevins simply been disciplined, all the snowflakes at Apple would have generated a sh**storm that’d make Ian look like a fresh morning dew. This is just plain dumb

    3
    September 30, 2022
  8. Jim Fournier said:
    Anyone who thought that Tim Cook would be OK with such careless public stupidity hasn’t been paying attention.

    13
    September 30, 2022
  9. Robert Stack said:
    OK – I don’t consider myself “woke”, but I am smart enough to know what it means to create a hostile work environment. How would you feel being female and reporting to this guy? Being a VP I’m sure he has many direct reports that are female, and whether they have large breasts or not they all know that this guy secretly would like to be fondling them. Sorry guys, but I believe Jeff and TC made the right decision. Makes me wonder whether there have been any prior complaints against him, which we may never know, and may also have been a factor in the decision to terminate him.

    8
    September 30, 2022
  10. Michael Goldfeder said:
    I’d be curious as to whether or not this individual was partaking with a few adult beverages when he uttered his remarks? Not that it excuses his behavior, but perhaps he has done similar things previously while having a few cocktails and the brass at Apple had told him any further incidents would not be tolerated. IMO, that’s probably why he was shown the door.

    5
    September 30, 2022
  11. Gregg Thurman said:
    How would you feel being female and reporting to this guy?

    I’m not a woman so can’t say. Personally I found the comment, taken in its whole, to be funny. Certainly it spoofs the canned, politically correct (I work for world peace) comments from air heads with no personality.

    In the work place it’s quite possible (we don’t know outside of conjectures on a single comment) he’s a demanding, yet respectful leader. I lean in that direction and think the overly sensitive, politically correct should get over themselves.

    4
    September 30, 2022
    • Robert Stack said:
      @Gregg: And yet…this is from an article that appeared in August:

      “Past and present employees told the Financial Times that the tech giant routinely ignores complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace at all levels. In a story published Thursday—based on interviews with 15 past and present Apple employees from several different departments and states—women say Apple’s HR department, called the People group, didn’t give much credit to claims of sexual harassment or misconduct.”

      “Women working at several different departments all over the company, and in different states, described going to HR with complaints that were routinely ignored.”

      “In a statement to FT, Apple said it investigates all misconduct allegations while making employees feel comfortable to report abuse. At the same time, the company admitted “there are some accounts raised that do not reflect our intentions or our policies and we should have handled them differently.” Apple added it will make changes to its “training and processes.””

      I certainly cannot say whether any of these complaints involved Mr Blevins or whether any of the cases have any merit – that’s not the point. But what Mr Blevins said put Apple senior execs in a very bad place. If they did nothing, his comments would be introduced as Exhibit A in any and every discrimination lawsuit filed by a female Apple employee as prima facie evidence that Apple tolerates a hostile environment for women.

      Three days ago an article in The Times (of London) was headlined “We Need More Women in Tech, says Apple Chief Tim Cook.” We now know (thanks to Bart) that Mr Blevins comments were being widely discussed within Apple (and even its suppliers) for some time now. IMO, there’s little doubt that Mr Cook’s comments reported three days ago were an attempt to get ahead of the story about Mr Blevins that came out yesterday, as if to add “And we mean it!”

      It seems clear to me that while Apple is not perfect, Mr Cook and the senior exec team do not want a “bro culture” as was/is widely known to exist at companies like Uber and Tesla (e.g. Mr Kaepernick and Mr Musk). I applaud them for doing the right thing, and it sends a clear message to any others in Apple who may have gotten away with any of the “accounts raised that do not reflect our intentions or our policies and we should have handled them differently.” (in Apple’s words)

      3
      September 30, 2022
  12. Daniel Epstein said:
    Somehow one thinks there is more to this story than the reported comments on video. No one is irreplaceable but on the face of it this seems more than harsh. Maybe his apology was worse than the offense. Skill in bargaining for lower prices from vendors does not guarantee one has allies when there is a problem.

    2
    September 30, 2022
  13. Bart Yee said:
    Here’s more context from the Bloomberg / Fortune article, emphasis mine:

    The video garnered more than 40,000 likes on Instagram and 1.3 million views on TikTok. After the clip was published, some members of Apple’s operations and procurement teams reported it to the human resources department, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the situation is private. The company then launched the investigation, they said.

    The video became a topic of discussion among Apple employees in recent weeks, with some expressing anger about his comments — especially given that other executives, including Cook and Williams, have publicly championed workforce diversity and the empowerment of women — according to the people. The video has also begun to spread among employees at some of the company’s key suppliers.

    After an internal investigation into the matter, Blevins’s team — which included about half a dozen direct reports and several hundred employees — was removed from his command , according to people familiar with the situation.

    Blevins has been part of a roughly 100-person group of vice presidents at Apple and one of only about 30 executives that report to either Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook or Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams. Williams has been Blevins’s boss for much of his career, though he briefly reported to Sabih Khan, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, according to the people.

    It was Williams’s decision for the company and Blevins to part ways, one of the people said. The operating chief will oversee Blevins’s old team, at least for now, according to the person.

    6
    September 30, 2022
  14. Lalit Jagtap said:
    Mr Cook is protecting the culture of apple. Also hope more CEOs and leaders in other domains demonstrate such a courage and empathy to send the message to everyone on their team. The negative energy coming from top executives behavior has to be stopped to protect the culture.

    9
    September 30, 2022
  15. Hoof-and-mouth disease no longer has a stigma attached in certain occupations or roles. Some, especially the arrogant or wealthy, assume all publicity is good publicity and say anything to get attention. That sets a bad example at work and in middle school classrooms. My friend’s son was briefly suspended for repeating something a former US President uttered. This former Apple executive might get elected to the White House with that ‘joke’ but HR lays down rules. Senior executives are held to higher standard and paid accordingly.
    We must remember Apple and other tech firms face employee backlash, lawsuits or turnover for fostering bro or frat boy misogynistic culture. I for one want more women benefiting from good jobs and senior positions in the tech industry. I want all types to feel as comfortable as possible in such demanding roles. Any other response by HR would have drawn a loud & persistent backlash.

    13
    September 30, 2022
    • Rodney Avilla said:
      “ Any other response by HR would have drawn a loud & persistent backlash.”

      Here lies the problem. When a person errors, the punishment should be determined by professionals trained in discipline and retraining, in order to determine the proper punishment. Each case needs to be assessed individually and based on a multitude of pertinent facts. The cancel couture has one knee jerk reaction, destroy (cancel) his/her career. The last people who should have input into this process are those with the loudest and most persistent twitter horns.

      0
      September 30, 2022
      • David Drinkwater said:
        Rod: “Each case needs to be assessed individually and based on a multitude of pertinent facts. The cancel couture has one knee jerk reaction, destroy (cancel) his/her career.”

        This is absolutely ridiculous. This is not an “individual case”: this is a senior corporate leader.

        I, as an individual contributing engineer, go through “sexual harassment training (for individual contributors)” every year. I believe my company also has “sexual harassment training (for managers)”. Different levels of legal training, due to different levels of responsibility.

        This guy is a VP so SVP. One would have to think (and demand) that the standard is much higher in the SVP Suites.

        0
        October 2, 2022
  16. John Butt said:
    So he remembers all jokes he saw in films from how many years ago? Yea right, this one shows his character, otherwise he would likely forget the joke like most of us.

    2
    September 30, 2022
    • Steven Philips said:
      “I’ll have another martini. Do you want another fish?”
      Gosh! I must be a drunk and never realized it. Thanks!

      0
      September 30, 2022
  17. Bart Yee said:
    Some other context:

    “Blevins confirmed the incident to Bloomberg, saying the encounter took place on Aug. 18. He confirmed that he would be departing Apple and apologized for his comments:

    “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my mistaken attempt at humor,” he said.”

    It’s not clear whether Blevins has made any other public statement. Aside from confirming Blevins is leaving the company, Apple has made no other statements.

    0
    September 30, 2022

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