Diego Piacentini, vice president sales and general manager of Apple Europe, Middle East and Africa, has resigned. Apple sources report that this was "for his own, personal reasons," and is unrelated to recent job cuts imposed on local Apple offices.

Piacentini will stay in the post until the end of March to ease the transitional period between European chiefs. Meanwhile, the search for his replacement has begun.

Responding to the resignation in an internal memo, Mitch Mandich, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide sales, is quoted as thanking Piacentini for his "achievements and tremendous contribution to Apple."

Mandich hopes the time between European bosses will be a 'graceful transition'.

US moves on Europe It's believed that the sudden departure of Piacentini might initiate more US involvement in the general day-to-day operations of Apple's European operations. Mandich alluded to this in his memo: "I look forward to working with the European team in a closer way. The year in front of us looks very promising, and Apple has the opportunity to achieve great momentum and success."

Diego's story Born in 1960, Piacentini was a graduate in Political Economy from the Bocconi University of Milan. He has worked for Apple since August 1987.

In May 1997, Piacentini was appointed as Apple’s European chief, succeeding Jan Gesmar-Larsen. Piacentini is responsible for all of Apple's business operations throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Previously, he was sales director for Apple Computer Europe. In September 1996, Piacentini was appointed managing director of Apple Computer Italy.

Prior to joining Apple, Piacentini held a financial management position at Fiatimpresit, Italy.

Back in 1997, Apple’s executive vice president, sales and service, David Manovich, described him as having "Energy and enthusiasm".

"His focus and dedication to customer satisfaction are matched only by his experience and knowledge of the industry, " Manovich added at the time.

He will also be missed for his strong working relationships with Apple's European clients.

Apple Europe saw a 54 per cent increase in sales for the first quarter of Apple's 2000 financial year.