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Apple head-hunts Burberry CEO

AFP-JIJI

British luxury fashion group Burberry said Tuesday long-serving chief executive Angela Ahrendts will step down next year to take up a newly created position with Apple.

Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey will take over from the 53-year-old U.S. national, adding chief executive to his title, the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

Burberry’s share price slumped 6.0 percent at the open in reaction to the surprise announcement. It later was down 4.23 percent on London’s FTSE 100 index, which was 0.65 percent higher.

Apple said Ahrendts will oversee the “strategic direction, expansion and operation” of its retail and online stores.

“I am thrilled that Angela will be joining our team,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook. “She shares our values and our focus on innovation, and she places the same strong emphasis as we do on the customer experience. She has shown herself to be an extraordinary leader throughout her career and has a proven track record.”

Ahrendts will have been chief executive of Burberry for about eight years by the time of her departure in 2014.

The London-listed firm, famous for its trademark red, camel and black check design on clothes and handbags, has undergone huge expansion into emerging markets with Ahrendts at the helm.

Bailey, who has been at Burberry since 2001 and chief creative officer for the past six years, said he was “profoundly moved and humbled to be asked to take on the CEO role.”

Burberry Chairman John Peace described his appointment as “a natural progression.”

Separately on Tuesday, Burberry reported sales of £1.03 billion ($1.65 billion) in the group’s first half, up 14 percent compared with the six months through to the end of September 2012.

“The impressive update has been overshadowed by the news that the chief executive will be leaving,” Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said in a note to clients.

“The shares have had a rocky ride, yet have still managed to outperform the market strongly. Over the last year Burberry has added 41 percent to its price, as compared to a 12 percent hike for the wider FTSE 100,” he wrote.

Burberry opened 14 stores and closed eight during the first half.

“Store openings included a net two in China and one additional store in each of Brazil, Mexico and India as the group continued to invest in high potential markets,” it said Tuesday.

Founded in 1856 by dressmaker Thomas Burberry, the company went on to invent the gabardine waterproof raincoat and provided equipment to officers in the British armed forces during World War I.