Apple’s head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, is leaving after 5 years

Apple’s head of retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts, is leaving in April after five years at the company.

When the former CEO of Burberry joined Apple in 2014, she was one if its most high-profile hires — and the company’s only female senior executive. She was once rumored to be a possible successor to CEO Tim Cook.

Ahrendts was the top paid executive at Apple for a time, and the highest paid CEO in the UK during her time at Burberry before that.

Apple hired her as part of its efforts to strengthen its presence in China. At the time of her hire, Apple had just launched its iPhone 5C, a cheaper smartphone model that was meant to appeal to Chinese buyers.

News of Ahrendts’ departure comes as Apple is again struggling in China. In a January letter to investors, Cook said a weaker Chinese economy would hurt holiday sales numbers. Apple’s most recent quarterly earnings showed a nearly $5 billion drop in revenue in China compared with the previous year.

While at Burberry, Ahrendts was credited with turning around the luxury fashion brand and expanding its presence in Asia.

Ahrendts did not share where she would work next, only that she is leaving “for new personal and professional pursuits,” according to a release from Apple.

“The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career,” Ahrendts said in the post.

She’ll be replaced by Deirdre O’Brien, who has been with Apple for 30 years and is the current vice president of human resources. O’Brien will take on a new expanded role as the senior vice president of “retail and people.”

Combining a human resources role with the head of retail could be a risky move for Apple. Retail has been a major strong point for the company and has helped distinguish it from competitors.

In a note to investors on Tuesday, Daniel Ives, a managing director at Wedbush Securities said it was clear Apple needed a change to “catalyze demand in and outside” its retail stores. He said he did not expect any “transitional worries on the retail front.”

In a recent interview with Vogue Business, Ahrendts reflected on her move to Apple from the fashion industry.

“There are things about the fashion industry that I miss, but I went to Apple because I felt it was a calling to one of the greatest companies on the planet. I felt we could even do a little of what we did at Burberry: uniting people to do incredible things,” she said.

 

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