Angela Ahrendts, the head of Apple’s retail division, will leave the company in April, five years after joining from Burberry.
Apple has given no reason for her departure. The company has had a tumultuous year, becoming the first in the world to secure a trillion-dollar valuation in August 2018 before plunging in the markets at the beginning of 2019 when it revealed that iPhone sales were significantly lower than it had initially forecast.
But the Apple retail arm, which covers its online and brick-and-mortar stores, has been a jewel in the crown throughout the period, with Ahrendts a regular fixture at press conferences to share successes such as new flagship locations, popular live events and free tutorials for new buyers.
The chief executive, Tim Cook, warmly acknowledged the former Burberry boss’s departure, saying: “I want to thank Angela for inspiring and energising our teams over the past five years. She has been a positive, transformative force, both for Apple’s stores and the communities they serve. We all wish her the very best as she begins a new chapter.”
Ahrendts said: “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.”
Whatever the reason, it’s a rare loss of top-tier talent for the company, which has an unusually low turnover for senior executives. Ahrendts’ replacement, Deirdre O’Brien, has a more typically Apple history: she joined the company 30 years ago and is already the vice-president of the people department at the company.
O’Brien will continue to do that job as she takes over the retail arm, the company said, but her promotion from vice-president to senior vice-president (SVP) will ensure that it doesn’t lose a female face at its highest tier, where O’Brien will join Apple’s only other female SVP, Katherine Adams.