Apple names new retail boss as Angela Ahrendts exits company

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Angela Ahrendts.
Angela Ahrendts at the iPhone X keynote.
Photo: Apple

Longtime Apple retail boss Angela Ahrendts is leaving the company after reshaping Apple’s online and retail strategies over the last five year.

Apple revealed today that it has named Deirdre O’Brien as the new senior vice president of Retail + People. Ahrendts, who was once looked at as a possible successor to Apple CEO Tim Cook, is leaving the company for new personal professional pursuits.

“The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career. Through the teams’ collective efforts, Retail has never been stronger or better positioned to make an even greater contribution for Apple,” said Angela Ahrendts, in a statement on Apple’s site. “I feel there is no better time to pass the baton to Deirdre, one of Apple’s strongest executives. I look forward to watching how this amazing team, under her leadership, will continue to change the world one person and one community at a time.”

Ahrendts joined Apple after serving as the CEO of Burberry for a number of years. Under her direction, Apple stores were given a more unified theme and redesigned with an aim at turning them into “town square” locations for the public.

During her time at Apple, Ahrendts was one of the company’s highest-paid executives and one of the highest-paid women in the US. She made more than CEO Tim Cook some years.

It appears that Ahrendts and Apple mutually agreed to part ways and that she wasn’t fired. Usually when Apple removes a top exec from their post the company keeps them on as an advisor to the CEO for a year, which means they are given golden handcuffs preventing them from joining the competition.

The new Apple retail boss

Deirdre O’Brien will assume most of Ahrendt’s responsibilities and report directly to Tim Cook. She has been an Apple employee for three decades. For her latest role, she was in charge of overseeing all People-related functions, including talent development and Apple University, recruiting, employee relations and experience, business partnership, benefits, compensation, and inclusion and diversity. Now she’s adding retail operations to those responsibilities.

“At Apple, we believe our soul is our people, and Deirdre understands the qualities and strengths of our team better than anyone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “For more than three decades, she has helped keep Apple focused on serving customers and enriching lives. She’s an exceptional leader and she’s been a vital partner to our retail teams around the world since the very beginning. I am thrilled to work alongside Deirdre in her new role, and I know our 70,000 retail employees will be, too.”

Ahrendts will stay on with Apple until April, helping O’Brien transition into her new role. Apple currently has 35 online stores and 506 retail stores on five continents.