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

In the video, published on 5 September, 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.” He also touted that he has a “hell of a dental plan”.

In reality, Blevins is Apple’s vice president of procurement and is in charge of striking deals with suppliers and partners. He recently worked on the company’s satellite agreement with Globalstar, led negotiations over cellular modems with Qualcomm and Intel, and has been in charge of driving down the costs of many critical parts that go into Apple’s mobile devices.

After an internal investigation into the matter, Blevins’ 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, a 22-year veteran of Apple, confirmed the incident, saying the encounter took place on 18 August. “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologise to anyone who was offended by my mistaken attempt at humour,” he said.

An Apple spokesman said on Thursday that Blevins is departing the Cupertino, California-based company.

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 CEO Tim Cook or chief operating officer Jeff Williams. Williams has been Blevins’ 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’ 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.

The TikTok video was taken at a car show that Blevins attended last month in Pebble Beach, California. 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.”

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.

Blevins’ departure opens up a void at Apple. He’s been integral to the company’s success over the past two decades, according to employees with knowledge of his work, helping Apple fatten its profit margins and get access to core technologies before rivals. He may be difficult to replace, given his understanding of Apple’s supply chain and his negotiating skills, they said.

The Wall Street Journal described him as Apple’s chief cost cutter in a 2020 feature story, saying he goes by “the Blevinator”.  — Bloomberg