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Bailey could take Burberry into a new age

Maria Hvorostovsky is the director and founder of recruiter HVO Search.

Angela Ahrendts cements her place in British history this year by receiving an honorary damehood as she prepares for her move from Burberry to Apple.

She leaves the luxury business in incredible shape, as evidenced by the half-year results published last week. Burberry is still tight-lipped about when exactly she will hand over the reins, but the market will be watching the transition with interest.

However, it came as a surprise to many that chief creative officer Christopher Bailey was named the successor, because the combination of creative and business skills is incredibly rare.

So was it a smart move? The business claims to be a design-led organisation, so it is natural that the creative who has not only instigated many of its innovations, but who has also been there longer than Ahrendts, takes centre stage.

It ensures continuity of the company’s strategy and its signature style. It would be a much riskier move to bring in an outsider; one who has not been part of the restructure and who would, most likely, want to impose change to make their own mark on the retailer.

It also sends a positive message to shareholders that the original senior management team built by Ahrendts is still largely there and ready to take the necessary step up. This creates more opportunity internally for the team to take broader responsibility, resulting in a more committed and loyal force.

It is not Bailey’s leadership or business acumen the City needs to worry about, nor his ability to unite commerce with the creative. The danger is for him to step too far away from his true gift - being the innovator and visionary, the chief creator - the key part of his title.

If Burberry’s management step up and allow him to keep dreaming, designing and being original and fresh, and if he can avoid getting submerged in the day-to-day detail of running the business, we will have a truly new-age British and humble chief executive that we will all be taking future lessons from.

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