Longtime Apple PR chief Katie Cotton to retire

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After an 18-year tenure at Apple, Katie Cotton, the company's vice president of worldwide corporate communications, will be leaving the Mac maker, it was announced on Wednesday.

Cotton's upcoming departure was confirmed by Apple in a statement to Re/code. One of the most powerful executives at the company, Cotton has been in charge of public relations under the rule of both Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and current Chief Executive Tim Cook.

"Katie has given her all to this company for over 18 years," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. "She has wanted to spend time with her children for some time now. We are really going to miss her."

Dowling is seen as a likely candidate to replace Cotton, according to sources who spoke with The Verge. Another potential successor is Natalie Kerris, as both she and Dowling have been at the company for more than 10 years.

Cotton also spoke out on her own departure, admitting that the decision to leave was "hard," as her long employment at Apple has made the company "a part of (her) heart."

The forthcoming departure from Cotton is the latest in a string of longtime high-ranking Apple employees who have decided to exit the company. In March, it was announced that Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer will exit at the end of September, while last month it was also revealed that Human Interface director Greg Christie will be leaving the company in a planned exit later this year.

Other noteworthy exits from Apple in recent years include former retail chief Ron Johnson, who left for an ill-fated stint as CEO of JC Penney; Scott Forstall, who was ousted from the company after struggles with the launch of iOS Maps; and John Browett, who was fired after a short tenure serving as Johnson's replacement.

The company's hardware engineering head, Bob Mansfield, announced his retirement in mid-2012, but the senior vice president was later convinced to stay. As of last July, Mansfield is no longer a part of Apple's executive team, but he continues to work on special projects.