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Burberry’s Bailey appointment met with mixed reactions

News that Christopher Bailey is to become Burberry’s chief executive next year has been met with mixed reactions, with concerns raised about Bailey’s business credentials with others applauding his creative genius.

Angela Ahrendts, who joined the British luxury brand in 2006, is stepping down from the top job in mid-2014 to take up a newly created role of senior vice president at Apple. She will have oversight of the strategic direction, expansion and operation of both Apple retail and online stores

Bailey, who joined Burberry in 2001, is taking on joint responsibilities as chief creative and chief executive officer.

Planet Retail senior retail analyst Isabel Cavill said too much change at the top of Burberry had caused “jitters” within the stock market, following chief financial officer Stacey Cartwright’s departure in July.

She questioned whether Bailey was business focused enough to take on the role but noted “he does have a great image for the brand, which needs to stay constant at this point.”

She was also sceptical about Bailey’s continued performance without Ahrendts, saying: “The relationship is in danger of being a Lennon & McCartney one – neither performing as well without the other, particularly in Bailey’s case as he is a creative.”

A source close to Burberry echoed this view: “Christopher will need quite a bit of support in the role of chief executive and I wouldn’t be surprised if Burberry hired another senior person in a finance-related role.”

Simon Burstein, chief executive of luxury retailer Browns, said it would be tough as the pair have previously worked “very much in tandem”. However he added: “Angela has a good team and possibly enough support to allow Christopher to become chief executive.”

One recruitment agent added: “The board clearly thought Angela was worth her paypacket [£16.8m] so how do they then think that person can leave without being properly replaced?”

Burberry chief financial officer Carol Fairweather moved to reassure naysayers, noting Bailey would be assisted by a “world class team”. “He has been a fundamental part of the strategy for the last 12 years and there is no doubt Christopher can unlock Burberry’s next step of growth,” she said.

The news came as Burberry posted a 14% rise in revenues to £1.03bn in the six months to September 30.

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