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

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.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Apple Inc.'s senior vice president of retail and online stores Ahrendts speaks with a worker at Apple's new retail store during a media preview in San Francisco
Angela Ahrendts, Apple Inc. senior vice president of retail and online stores, speaks with a worker at Apple's new retail store during a media preview in San Francisco, California on May 21, 2016.Noah Berger / Reuters file

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/ Source: CNBC.com
By Lauren Feiner, CNBC

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.

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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."