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Apple veteran Deirdre O’Brien to replace Angela Ahrendts as retail chief

Apple has named Deirdre O’Brien senior vice president of Retail + People. She replaces Angela Ahrendts who led the company's retail department for five years, and is leaving Apple in April.

O'Brien worked at Apple for 30 years, most recently as head of Apple's People department, which has now been merged with Retail.

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“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," Tim Cook said of O'Brien in a statement.

Apple’s new Senior Vice President of Retail + People Deirdre O’Brien speaks to Apple employees, with CEO Tim Cook and outgoing retail chief Angela Ahrendts in the background.

Ahrendts, who came to Apple from Burberry in 2013, leaves the company at a time when smartphone sales are declining. While it's hard to pin that on Ahrendts, Cook himself said the company's iPhone battery replacement program, a decline in carrier subsidies and a stronger U.S dollar were the main culprits. The fact that she's leaving at this particular time is notable. Apple says Ahrendts is leaving for "new personal and professional pursuits."

Interestingly, Vogue Business ran a big profile of Ahrendts just last week, which mostly focused on Apple, with nary a hint of Ahrendts departure in sight.

Despite Apple saying Ahrendts is leaving in April, the company already changed O'Brien's executive bio on its webpage, as noted by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Ahrendts is still listed as Senior VP of Retail, though.

Officially, Apple had only the best to say about Ahrendts. “She has been a positive, transformative force, both for Apple’s stores and the communities they serve," Cook said in a statement.

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