Apple's retail chief Angela Ahrendts to leave the company in April

Key Points
  • Apple retail chief and former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts will be leaving the company "for new personal and professional pursuits," Apple announced Tuesday.
  • Ahrendts spent about five years at Apple, where she led their retail and online stores.
  • Vice President of People Deirdre O'Brien will take on an expanded role covering retail.
Apple head of retail Angela Ahrendts plans to depart company in April
Apple head of retail Angela Ahrendts plans to depart company in April

Apple's retail boss Angela Ahrendts will leave the company in April, Apple announced Tuesday.

Deirdre O'Brien, who has worked at Apple for three decades, will take on an expanded role as a senior vice president of Retail + People, Apple said. O'Brien previously held the title of vice president of people, and Apple said she would continue to oversee functions related to that role, including talent development and employee relations.

Ahrendts led Apple's retail and online stores for the past five years but is now leaving "for new personal and professional pursuits," according to Apple. She had been one of the highest-paid employees at Apple. Ahrendts' total compensation was $26.5 million in 2018, according to Apple's proxy statement from Jan. 8, 2019. CEO Tim Cook, by comparison, made $15.7 million in total compensation that year, according to the filing.

Ahrendts joined Apple from Burberry, where she served as chief executive. She had been rumored to be a potential CEO successor to Cook, but Ahrendts had called the claims "fake news" and "silly" in an interview with BuzzFeed News published in October 2017.

In an interview with Vogue Business published late last month, Ahrendts said a part of her still missed fashion, but she was pulled to Apple by the work it was doing at the time.

"You know, I loved fashion for 40 years," she said in the interview. "It is wonderful when you know everything there is to know about the industry because you grew up in it. There are things about the fashion industry that I miss, but I went to Apple because I felt it was a calling to one of the greatest companies on the planet. I felt we could even do a little of what we did at Burberry: uniting people to do incredible things."

At Apple, Ahrendts said she concerned herself with retail's impact on the company's brand, rather than simply on sales numbers.

She told Vogue, "No matter how that customer comes in and buys, you have to look at it as one P&L. This is the issue, companies try and make these stores work on a standalone basis. When someone buys online and picks up in-store the revenue goes to online and not the store, but you are doing all the work in the store. They need to look at it differently."

Cook posted the following photo to Twitter late on Tuesday afternoon, showing himself with O'Brien and Ahrendts:

Apple People VP Deirdre O'Brien (left), who is taking over the duties of vacating retail chief Angela Ahrendts (right), with CEO Tim Cook in the middle.
via Apple

Here is the release from Apple announcing Ahrendts' departure:

Apple today announced that Deirdre O'Brien is taking on new responsibilities for Apple's retail and online stores in an expanded role as senior vice president of Retail + People, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. After five transformative years leading the company's retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts plans to depart Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits.

In her expanded role, Deirdre will bring her three decades of Apple experience to lead the company's global retail reach, focused on the connection between the customer and the people and processes that serve them. She will continue to lead the People team, overseeing all People-related functions, including talent development and Apple University, recruiting, employee relations and experience, business partnership, benefits, compensation, and inclusion and diversity.

"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."

"People come to Apple to do the best work of their lives, and our retail teams show their passion every day, in every interaction, all around the world," said Deirdre O'Brien, senior vice president of Retail + People. "It is the opportunity of a lifetime to work with, and learn from, such a talented, diverse and imaginative team. I am looking forward to this journey, and to continuing the important work of the People team in supporting all of Apple's amazing employees."

Apple today operates 35 online stores and 506 retail stores on five continents, staffed by teams who are dedicated to enriching lives and serving their communities. Every Apple retail store location offers innovative programs for customers, including Today at Apple, designed to unlock creativity, inspire learning and encourage connection.

"I want to thank Angela for inspiring and energizing our teams over the past five years," said Tim Cook. "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."

"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, senior vice president of Retail. "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."

Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Apple's four software platforms — iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud. Apple's more than 100,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.

Watch: CNBC's 2017 conversation with outgoing Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts

CNBC’s 2017 conversation with outgoing Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts
CNBC’s 2017 conversation with outgoing Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts