Ellen Hancock, hired as Apple’s Chief Technology Officer last summer, is apparently negotiating severance terms with her employer. Hancock saw her responsibilities diminish dramatically when Apple bought NeXT Software and she was reassigned to the Q&A group during this month’s reorganization. Ironically, Hancock spearheaded the purchase of NeXT. In recent days, Steve Jobs and his closest NeXT lieutenants have been seizing power at Apple: former NeXT employees Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein recently replaced Hancock as heads of R&D.

Apple, however, say’s it’s not true. “She said she has no plans to leave,” said Katie Cotton, an Apple corporate spokeswoman.

If the rumored 5,000 layoffs are true, it is possible that CEO Gil Amelio is stripping the company to make it more attractive for a sale. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been quoted as saying he would gladly finance a takeover if his friend Steve Jobs would run the company. Meanwhile, at Apple, no one is talking per se, but many employees admit that Steve Jobs’ influence grows daily.

The Apple soap opera continues..