The one with the second bite

So there’s an old expression ‘once bitten, twice shy’ which aside from a select group of enthusiasts and vampires I always believed to mean if you tried something once and it didn’t work then you’d pretty much leave it alone.

Which brings us to Mr. Timothy Cook, CEO of Apple and his hiring of FTSE CEOs to run his retail business.

It was only February 2012 when it was announced he had hired then Dixons CEO, John Browett, to run the retail side of Apple and it was only 6 months after he joined…that he left. It appeared his page from the ‘UK retail play book’ didn’t go down well with his fruity colleagues (he tried to lock it down and grind it out) and he escaped the infinity loop and headed into the Monsoon. I remember thinking at the time that this was a) a dopey move with the Apple retail brand and b) a brave decision by Mr. Cook in oiking Mr Browett out of the door albeit with a very very very soft landing.

I hold a lurking suspicion that whenever a CEO heads for the hills it’s usually because all known goodness has been wrung out and whoever follows is going to have to take a patient from life support to the high dependency unit where they will solider on for some time. I’ve referred to it in the past as the CEO hospital pass. That said, Seb James who took over at Dixons retail seems to have made a good fist of it – at least so far.

So if you’ve been anywhere near the press in the past 24 hours you will have noticed that Mr. Cook has exposed himself for yet another bite by hiring Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts to head his retail empire. Let’s put aside the fact that this leaves only 2 female CEOs in the FTSE100, a can of worms I am keen to leave closed and the fact that Ms Ahrendts is American. Is this going to lead to another large pay out or is it the smartest move Mr. Cook has yet to make?

You’d have to put money on the latter. Whilst Mr. Browett was a through and through retailer (most of his formative experience being gained at Tesco), Ms. Ahrendts has lead more brand driven outfits e.g. Liz Claibourne, Donna Karan Intl and of course Burberry. Despite numerous challenges to the Burberry brand (e.g. Chavs!) Ahrendts has driven the brand in two directions – up and out. Partnering with Creative Chief Jonny Ives Christopher Bailey she has strived to maintain Burberry as a luxury premium brand that happens to have stores. She has also driven expansion in international markets and taken the brand into new countries. This sounds far more Apple-esque to me…

I suppose if I’m honest the main reason I want this to work (and I do) is that I REALLY want one of these CEOs to actually leave on a high (Burberry have just posted very positive first half results) and that was seems like ordered succession (Bailey is taking over as CEO) to ACTUALLY work out. Not just to prove that the best laid plans of mice and men don’t always go pear-shaped or to restore my waning faith but just to prove it can work!

Oh and please please please tell me someone has bought Tim Cook one of these…

burberry iphone


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