LONDON, United Kingdom — Angela Ahrendts, who many credit with transforming British luxury brand Burberry, is set to exit her role as the company's chief executive in mid-2014 to join Apple, based in California's Silicon Valley. In an unusual move, Christopher Bailey, currently Burberry's chief creative officer, will replace Ahrendts, taking on the dual title of chief creative and chief executive officer.
Following the announcement, Burberry shares fell by more than 6 percent in early trading on London's stock exchange.
“[Ahrendts] leaves the company at a crossroads, as there is no clear development strategy in place," Mario Ortelli, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, told Bloomberg. "We believe that in a company as big and complex as Burberry, even for a person as talented as Mr. Bailey, it is hard to have enough time to carry out both of these roles.”
Ahrendts is set to become Apple's new head of retail, a position that has remained open since the departure of John Browett, who lasted less than a year after replacing the company’s first head of retail, Ron Johnson.
“I am profoundly honored to join Apple in this newly created position next year, and very much look forward to working with the global teams to further enrich the consumer experience on and offline. I have always admired the innovation and impact Apple products and services have on people’s lives and hope in some small way I can help contribute to the company’s continued success and leadership in changing the world,” Ahrendts said in a statement.
Ahrendts is the second senior fashion executive to be hired by Apple in recent months. In July, Paul Deneve, former chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent left the label to join Apple, working on "special projects as a vice president reporting directly to Tim Cook." He is thought to be working on wearable devices: personal accessories with embedded sensors, displays and other digital technology such as Nike’s FuelBand, Google’s Internet-connected eyewear and Apple’s rumoured iWatch.
In a recent interview with The Business of Fashion, one of her last major interviews before today's news, Ahrendts spoke at length about digital innovation and the importance of the company's "connected culture."
Burberry chairman Sir John Peace characterised Ahrendts' exit as "a natural progression," adding: "I have no doubt that Christopher's vision and leadership, with the excellent management team in place, will keep Burberry on the forefront creatively, digitally and financially."
In a separate statement this morning, Burberry released recent trading results, revealing 17 percent growth in revenues in the six months to the end of September. Total revenue rose 14 percent to £1.03 billion (about $1.59 billion at current exchange rates) helped by double-digit growth in Asia-Pacific and the Europe, Middle East, India and Africa division, and high single-digit growth in the Americas.