Tim Cook hypes up new retail boss in email to employees

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Apple’s new Senior Vice President of Retail + People Deirdre O’Brien with Tim Cook.
Apple’s new Senior Vice President of Retail + People Deirdre O’Brien with Tim Cook and her predecessor, Angela Ahrendts.
Photo: Apple

Apple‘s CEO told his employees that the company’s new head of retail sales is “one of Apple’s most passionate and experienced advocates for our customers and employees.” Tim Cook also highlighted Deirdre O’Brien’s previous experience with Apple retail operations.

These comments came in an email sent this morning to retail emplyees.  The full text of this is now available.

Did she jump or was she pushed?

This message from Cook doesn’t answer a big question about the departure of the previous head of retail sales, Angela Ahrendts: was she asked to leave the company?

Last year saw the first year-over-year decline in iPhone sales ever. Cook could blame her for that and be looking for new leadership.

On the other hand, the CEO’s email this morning is full of praise for Ahrendts. And Apple doesn’t seem to have a replacement ready, as O’Brien will be handling retail as well as continuing to be charge of human resources.

Full Tim Cook email to retail employees:

Team,

I’m writing to let you know about an important leadership change. Today we’re announcing the promotion of one of Apple’s most passionate and experienced advocates for our customers and employees — and the departure of a much-loved and accomplished leader who has played a transformative role in shaping Apple’s retail experiences.

After five years leading Apple’s retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts is planning to leave Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits. Angela has inspired and energized our retail teams with the vision of stores as a place where the best of Apple comes together to serve customers and communities. During her tenure, the in-store experience has been redefined with programs like Today at Apple, and our relationship with customers is stronger than ever.

This transition gives us an opportunity to reinforce and carry forward the values that make our retail and online stores the best in the world — and our mission to enrich the lives of others. As I’ve said many times, Apple’s greatest asset is its people. And with that in mind, the best choice to lead our team became clear very quickly.

I am thrilled to announce that Deirdre O’Brien will be taking responsibility for our retail teams in a new role as senior vice president of Retail + People. Deirdre brings insight and experience gained over 30 years at Apple — decades spent focusing on the connection between customers and the people and processes that serve them. Working collaboratively across Apple, Deirdre and her teams empower people to lead with purpose and humanity.

Deirdre was part of the team that planned and launched Apple’s very first online and retail stores. She has been a part of Retail’s exciting expansion and every product launch since. She knows the value of the deep human connections that retail experiences make possible — and she knows this is where Apple shows its heart and soul.

In her capacity as vice president of People, Deirdre and her team have brought elevated focus to how Apple inspires, connects, develops and cares for its employees — essential efforts that she will continue companywide through the People team in her new and expanded role.

As we look forward, finding new ways to elevate our in-store and online experiences, forging deeper relationships with the customers who love our products, I believe that our team, at every level, is the best in the business. I am grateful to Angela for all she’s done for Apple, and I’m looking forward to what Deirdre will bring to her new role.

To everyone in Retail, and our employees worldwide, thanks for all you do to help dreamers become doers, to expand human potential and to do the best work of our lives.

Tim