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Apple Hires Burberry CEO Ahrendts To Head Retail Division

After going a year without a permanent executive in charge of its retail division, Apple said Tuesday morning that it is hiring Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts as a senior vice president. She will be the first woman on Apple's team of senior executives.

A veteran of the fashion industry, Ahrendts, 53, is a native of New Palestine, Ind., who has headed Britain's Burberry since 2006. On Tuesday, the company reported total revenue of more than $1.64 billion in the six-month period that ended Sept. 30. Her tenure included a successful revamping of the company's online store.

When she joins Apple next spring, Ahrendts will oversee "the strategic direction, expansion and operation of both Apple retail and online stores," the company says. She replaces John Browett, who had occupied Apple's retail post for less than a year when he was let go last October.

Ahrendts will have a bit more control than Browett had, reports Apple Insider, noting that as part of a newly created position, her turf will include both online and brick-and-mortar stores.

In a statement accompanying a news release, Ahrendts said she would work to improve customer service at the company's stores. Browett had taken criticism for moving to cut staffing costs at Apple's storefront operations.

Ahrendts "also has experience expanding into China — where Burberry now has more than 70 stores in the country against Apple's eight," reports Britain's Telegraph. "Slow growth in Apple's Chinese retail operations was pinned as another reason for Mr Browett's departure."

For Apple, Ahrendts is the second recent arrival from the fashion world. And her arrival may coincide with the arrival of a new product line, as The New York Times reports:

"Ms. Ahrendts is Apple's second big hire from the fashion industry amid reports that the company is readying an Internet-connected wristwatch. In the summer, the company hired Paul Deneve, the former chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent, the French fashion house, to work on special projects, reporting directly to Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive."

This summer, Ahrendts made headlines when it was revealed that she earned more than $26 million — far more than any other top executive at Britain's largest companies. A large part of the payout, as The Daily Mail reported, came from selling accrued shares of Burberry's stock.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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