Angela Ahrendts to depart Apple in April, Deirdre O’ Brien named SVP of Retail + People

Apple today announced that Angela Ahrendts, who is currently the company’s SVP of retail, will be departing in April after 5 years. Her successor will be Dierdre O’Brien, under the official title of senior Vice President of Retail + People.

Some comments from Tim Cook on the move:

“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.”

And some words from O’Brien herself:

“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.”

And finally a note from the departing Ahrendts:

“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.”

I don’t think you can overstate how important Angela Ahrendts has been to Apple’s retail strategy since joining the company in 2014. Remember they tried to replace their retail guru Ron Johnson with a man named John Browett, but ended up firing Browett after just 9 months. Tim Cook and his team then spent more than a year examining candidates before finally selecting Ahrendts.

Things are obviously a lot different these days. Apple now has 506 retail stores around the globe, and 35 online stores. Deirdre has been with the company for more than 30 years, and will continue to oversee the People team. There’s no word yet on where Ahrendts is headed, but the press release said she is leaving for “new personal and professional pursuits.”