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Apple hires Burberry boss to lead retail, its second fashion CEO in three months

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apple iphone logo stock 1020
apple iphone logo stock 1020

Apple is hiring Angela Ahrendts, who was until today the CEO of Burberry, to lead the Apple retail and online stores' "strategic direction, expansion, and operation." She will join Apple in spring 2014, filling a long-vacant gap in the company's executive lineup. No one is leaving Apple's executive team due to the hire.

In a press release announcing the hire, Ahrendts says she's "profoundly honored to join Apple in this newly created position next year," adding that she looks forward to "working with the global teams to further enrich the consumer experience on and offline."

Ahrendts has a long history in the fashion industry

Ahrendts has a long history at the executive-level in the fashion industry. She became president of Donna Karan International in 1989 at the age of just 29, staying there until the mid-'90s. She joined the executive board of Liz Claiborne (now Fifth & Pacific) in 1998 before joining Burberry as CEO in 2006. Her tenure at the London fashion house is widely regarded as a success. She oversaw a period of prosperity at a time when the brand was in risk of dilution.

This is the second fashion CEO Apple has poached in a matter of months. The company hired Paul Deneve, former CEO and President of Yves-Saint Laurent, back in July. At the time, there was much speculation as to why Deneve, who led YSL's retail expansion, was not joining to spearhead Apple's retail efforts, but rather as a vice president in charge of "special projects." Apple followed up Deneve with the August hire of Enrique Atienza, a senior vice president at Levi's who now leads Apple's US retail efforts, but the worldwide retail leadership position remained vacant until now.

Regarding Ahrendts joining Apple, Cook says he's "thrilled" by the appointment. "She shares our values and our focus on innovation, and she places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience. She has shown herself to be an extraordinary leader throughout her career and has a proven track record."

Update: 9to5Mac has posted an internal memo written by Tim Cook, welcoming Ahrendts to the team and describing her as "wicked smart." The full memo follows:


I am thrilled to announce that Angela Ahrendts will be joining Apple as a senior vice president and member of our executive team, reporting directly to me. Angela is currently the CEO of Burberry.

She will lead both our retail and online teams. I have wanted one person to lead both of these teams for some time because I believe it will better serve our customers, but I had never met anyone whom I felt confident could lead both until I met Angela. We met for the first time last January, and I knew in that meeting that I wanted her to join Apple. We’ve gotten to know each other over the past several months and I’ve left each conversation even more impressed.

She shares our values and our focus on innovation. She places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience. She cares deeply about people and embraces our view that our most important resource and our soul is our people. She believes in enriching the lives of others and she is wicked smart. Angela has shown herself to be an extraordinary leader throughout her career and has a proven track record. She led Burberry through a period of phenomenal growth with a focus on brand, culture, core values and the power of positive energy.

Angela will need to focus over the coming months on transitioning her current role at Burberry and will then join Apple in the spring. I am sure as all of you meet her, you will see why I am so excited that she is joining our executive team. I’d like to add a special thanks to all of our retail leaders. Your strength, talent and leadership afforded me the luxury of taking the time to perform an exhaustive search to find the best person in the world for this role.