Apple hires Burberry CEO as its new store chief

Apple has filled its need for an executive to oversee its stores, and in a big way: The company has hired Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to the newly created position of senior vice president of retail and online stores.

It’s the latest move in the fallout from the 2011 departure of former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson, who built Apple’s strong retail presence with Steve Jobs but left to become CEO at retailer JCPenney. Johnson was fired by JCPenney’s board in 2013; Apple hired John Browett (previously CEO of tech retailer Dixons and supermarket chain Tesco) as a replacement in 2012, but that hire fizzled and Browett was fired later that year.

Burberry is a British luxury fashion brand—you may know it from its plaid? Being a successful leader of a style-conscious retail brand has long been considered an ideal trait for a new Apple retail head; All Things D’s John Paczkowski put Ahrendts on his Apple retail short list back in January. Prior to Burberry, she was an executive at Liz Claiborne and Donna Karan International. Though Burberry is very British, Ahrendts isn’t—she’s a native of Indiana. She also adds a female face to an Apple executive team that is currently entirely male.

Ahrendts’ hire can’t come cheap for Apple. Last year she was the highest paid CEO on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE 100, with total pay of roughly $27 million. (That included stock options; her current Burberry salary is reportedly just under $11 million.) But Apple's retail presence is amazingly lucrative and clearly needs to remain a focus for the company.

Ahrendts won’t join Apple immediately. The company said she’ll arrive next spring. Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey will replace her as Burberry CEO. Her position also differs from the position previously held by Browett in that she will be explicitly in charge of not just Apple’s physical retail efforts, but its online store as well.

Followers of Apple will recognize Burberry from recent news: Just before the release of the iPhone 5s, Burberry used the phone to shoot its 2014 fashion show.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter

Comments