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Apple replacing retail boss amid pressure to lift sales

‘HEAD SCRATCHER’:Angela Ahrendts, a key Apple executive, had been thought to be in the running to inherit the chief executive’s crown from Tim Cook


Apple senior vice president of retail Angela Ahrendts speaks at the Steve Jobs Theatre on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, on Sept. 12, 2017.

Photo: AFP

A new head of retail is to take over at Apple Inc in April as the iPhone maker looks to ramp up sales in a sluggish smartphone market, particularly in China.

Angela Ahrendts is to leave Apple in April for “new personal and professional pursuits,” her duties being taken over by retail and people senior vice president Deirdre O’Brien, who will report to chief executive Tim Cook, the company said in an online post.

Apple hired Ahrendts away from her position as Burberry’s top executive in late 2013.

“The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career,” Ahrendts said.

Apple operates 35 online stores and 506 retail stores on five continents, and boasts about 70,000 retail employees.

O’Brien has 30 years of experience at Apple, according to the Cupertino-based company.

“She’s an exceptional leader and she’s been a vital partner to our retail teams around the world since the very beginning,” Cook said of O’ Brien.

The departure of Ahrendts was a surprise, given her position as a key Apple executive and the perception she could be in the running to inherit the chief executive’s crown from Cook, according to Wedbush Securities Inc analyst Daniel Ives.

Apple is entering a critical period in which it needs to drive demand “on the retail front,” especially in China, Ives said in a note to investors. “In a nutshell, while the timing of this departure is a head scratcher, change could be a good thing for Apple as the last year has been nothing to write home about.”

Apple profits held steady in the most recent quarter, with revenue growth in music, movies, apps and other services offsetting iPhone sales that were down 15 percent from the same period in 2017.

Overall revenue for Apple dipped nearly five percent from a year ago, in line with the lowered guidance earlier this month that stunned the market and hammered shares of the iPhone maker.

Separately, Apple has reached an agreement with French authorities over 10 years of back taxes, the US firm said on Tuesday, confirming information published by the French magazine L’Express.

The magazine reported that the firm paid nearly 500 million euros (US$570 million) to resolve the case in a confidential settlement reached in December last year.

“The French tax administration recently concluded a multi-year audit on the company’s French accounts and an adjustment will be published in our public accounts,” Apple said.

The company declined to disclose the amount paid, but a source familiar with the case confirmed to AFP the sum of nearly 500 million euros reported by L’Express.

“We know the important role taxes play in society and we pay our taxes in all the countries where we operate, in complete conformity with laws and practices in force at the local level,” the company said.

French authorities declined to comment citing the confidentiality of tax matters.

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