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The departure of Nancy Heinen, Apple Computer Inc.’s general counsel, seems to be the latest mystery at a company that really likes its secrets. Weeks after Heinen left the company in May, it was still unclear whether one of Silicon Valley’s highest-ranking female attorneys was forced to leave, or if she’d resigned. Heinen answered her cell phone on May 10, while hiking the hills near her Portola Valley, California, home. She did little more than confirm that she would not be returning to Cupertino-based Apple. When asked what her future plans were, Heinen replied, “I’m hiking � that’s my plan for today,” before declining to provide further information. Apple, notoriously tight-lipped about pretty much everything, including executive departures, has been equally mum. Spokesman Steve Dowling confirmed that Heinen was “no longer an Apple employee,” but declined to say when she left or why. CFO Peter Oppenheimer will serve as interim GC while the company launches a search for a permanent replacement, Dowling says. An Apple employee who requested anonymity says that Heinen’s last day was May 1. Heinen, a nine-year veteran of Apple, did manage to bulk up her bank account before she left the company. In January 2005 she exercised stock options for a net gain of more than $13 million, and cashed in another $4.7 million last August, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Few Bay Area observers interviewed for this story wanted to comment on the record about Heinen’s departure. One legal recruiter says that Heinen had an “unusually strong relationship with [Apple CEO] Steve Jobs,” and added that it was highly unlikely that Jobs would have fired Heinen. A Bay Area general counsel adds that the secrecy surrounding Heinen’s departure is typical Apple behavior. “They’re extremely tight-lipped over there,” this GC says. “They try to muzzle leaks. … They really want to control the message [going] out.” Alan Mendelson, cochair of Latham & Watkins’s venture and technology group, plays down the lack of information about Heinen’s move. “You never know in these kinds of situations,” Mendelson says. “I wouldn’t make too much of [Apple's silence].” He adds that Heinen, whom he has known for years, is a “terrific lawyer.” (Heinen is a member of Corporate Counsel‘s editorial advisory board.) Prior to joining Apple, Heinen was previously GC at Jobs’s Next Software Inc. until its acquisition by Apple in 1997. Two other former Next executives also left Apple in March � Avadis Tevanian, Jr., chief software technology officer, and Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president of Apple’s iPod division. Tevanian, who has since joined the board of Tellme Networks Inc., declined to comment on Heinen’s departure.

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