updated 11:30 pm EST, Thu November 21, 2013
Angela Ahrendts, former Burberry CEO, will take over retail operations
Apple's new Head of Retail, former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts, has been named the fourth-highest finisher in the "Businessperson of the Year" competition by Fortune magazine. Ahrendts received the award for taking Burberry to a higher level of visibility in worldwide fashion markets - including a widely-publicized fashion show photographed entirely with the new iPhone 5s days ahead of its public unveiling. She places significantly ahead of her new boss, Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk took the top spot in the poll, followed by a nebulous "Activist Investors" group in second and Chinese online retailer Tencent CEO Ma Huateng in third. Ahrendts was also recognized for helping drive the stock price of Burberry up nearly 30 percent over last year, mostly by giving the 157-year-old outdoorwear company a more vital, youthful image. She will be in charge of both the physical retail stores as well as Apple's online store, the first time those two jobs have been combined under one person.
Cook, who along with Phil Schiller and other executives has been overseeing the retail side of Apple's operations since John Browett's departure nearly a year ago, hand-picked Ahrendts and said she was the first person he felt confident could handle both the online and "brick-and-mortar" storefronts. Ahrendt will take over as retail operations chief in the spring.
Cook himself came in at 47th place in the poll, a significant drop from last year's second-place finish but with no real explanation of the change provided by the magazine. The magazine oddly described Cook and Apple by saying the company "didn't have a great year," before going on to point out that it "remains the world's most valuable company," and that sales rose nine percent last year to $171 billion.
While nine percent is lower than Apple has achieved in years where it disrupted the market with completely new products, it continues to hold its own against competitors and remains the dominant company in US mobile, mobile enterprise, tablets and in consumer influence. Newly-refreshed iPhones and iPads are likely to once again ensure Apple reigns as the world's top-selling brand of electronics this holiday season.
Ahrendt will be managing an operation some seven times larger than Burberry, which generates around $3.2 billion annually in online sales. Many analysts believe she was recruited to help the company expand its experience in wearable devices, building on her knowledge of both fashion and marketing. Cook has referred to her as "the best person in the world for this role."