For the first time since her hire as Apple’s new retail chief, Angela Ahrendts discussed her career move with a lengthy post on LinkedIn.
Apple’s announcement last month that it had hired Ahrendts gained much attention — she comes from the luxury retail sphere, having led Burberry as its chief executive officer since 2006, and will become Apple’s highest-ranking woman executive . She knows elegance and marketing, but not necessarily the mechanics of a tech company, which raised murmurs among skeptical analysts and investors. But until now, Ahrendts had remained mostly silent publicly on her high-profile hire, which many speculate comes with one of the most generous Apple has ever doled out.
In her LinkedIn post, Ahrendts said little of her ambitions at Apple — saying only that “I firmly believe in following your intuition, especially in relation to the most important decisions in your life” — but tried to quell the gossip and conjecture around her departure from Burberry.
“Too often management transitions are viewed with fear or suspicion, when they should be the ultimate example of a natural and healthy organizational evolution,” she said.
She didn’t mention Apple by name, but instead spoke lovingly of Burberry and explained her reason for leaving. With her exit from the UK fashion giant, Ahrendts’ says she leaves behind a company that she “I had always dreamed of working for.”
“Intuitively I knew this meant the time was right for me to exit stage left, trusting that Burberry would only go from strength to strength in its next exciting chapter,” she writes.
She named Christopher Bailey, Burberry chief creative officer and longtime fashion designer, as her successor. He will be responsible for managing 11,000 Burberry associates. Planning for a seamless tradition, she said, is one of the greatest responsibilities of any CEO.
“So when your time comes to move on, your team not only doesn’t miss a beat but gains in momentum, embracing new challenges and realizing future opportunities,” she writes.
In her post, Ahrendts takes a moment to recognize the company’s transformation during her leadership. Ahrendts is credited with elevating Burberry from a stodgy raincoat line to a luxury brand sported by celebrities and mentioned in one of rapper Jay-Z’s most popular tunes.
Coming off one of the company’s most successful period of financial growth, Ahrendts says: ”Burberry’s true success is measured not by financial growth or brand momentum, but by something much more human: one of the most connected, creative and compassionate cultures in the world today, steeped in common values and beliefs, and united around a shared vision.”
When Ahrendts joins Apple in the spring, she will fill a yearlong vacancy and bring much-needed leadership and stability to the tech giant’s retail division, which has been without a top executive since former John Browett was canned last October. Experts say her hire signals renewed commitment to Apple’s retail bread and butter of customer service and elegant design, and an investment in more wearable gadgets. Burberry is famous for its stylish watches, and Apple is rumored to be working on a smartwatch.
Photo: Taken in London on November 9, 2010, shows CEO of Burberry Angela Ahrendts addressing delegates at the Heritage Luxury conference. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL/FILESLEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images