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Former exec sues Apple over dismissal

Former head of Mac hardware engineering unit sues for unpaid compensation, claiming he was terminated without cause.

A former top Apple Computer executive who left the company last year is suing the Mac maker for wrongful termination.

Tim Bucher, who headed Macintosh Hardware Engineering until last fall, filed suit last month in Santa Clara County Superior Court alleging that Apple terminated him without cause and failed to pay all due compensation, including restricted stock grants and a bonus.

"As a result of the actions of defendant Apple, the plaintiff has suffered damages including the loss of income and emotional distress," according to Bucher's lawsuit. Bucher is seeking to recoup lost compensation, as well as punitive damages and other penalties.

An Apple representative declined to comment.

Bucher was hired by Apple in March 2003 as vice president of Macintosh System Development. Last May, he was promoted to senior vice president of Macintosh Hardware Engineering, replacing Jon Rubinstein, who was named head of a newly created iPod division.

According to the suit, Bucher said that he held that post, as well as his former role, until Nov. 10, when "Apple Executive Vice President Tim Cook told the plaintiff to go home from his work at Apple and that 'a change is coming' or words to that effect."

The same day, Bucher alleges, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told him, "You're not a failure. Even God couldn't have done both of the jobs I pushed you to do."

Two days later, Bucher alleges, Jobs told him that "People sometimes think you are manic-depressive." In the same conversation, according to the suit, Jobs is said to have told Bucher, "I'm not sure what I am going to do, but I think I am going to have to ask you to leave the company."

Bucher left the company in mid-November, but was not formally notified of the dismissal until a letter in January that said his employment was terminated as of Dec. 31, according to the suit.

The former WebTV and Microsoft executive charges that he was terminated, in part, because of a perceived disability. The suit does not detail that perception.

In a statement to CNET News.com, Bucher's attorney said that the former Apple executive also fell "victim to a corporate power play."

"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," said Daniel Pyne, an attorney for San Jose, Calif.-based Hopkins & Carley.

In addition to his work at Apple and Microsoft, Bucher is the founder and chairman of Mirra, a company that makes a home server product.