Apple's retail chief, Angela Ahrendts, is leaving the company. Here's how she rose from a small town in Indiana to become the highest-paid executive at Apple

  • Angela Ahrendts has served as Apple’s head of retail for the past five years. But in February 2019, Apple announced she was leaving the company.
  • She didn’t take a typical path into the tech world – her last role was as CEO of Burberry.
  • But Ahrendts has been the highest-paid executive at Apple, earning almost double what CEO Tim Cook makes.
  • Here’s how she rose from a small town in Indiana to an executive position at Apple.

Angela Ahrendts may not have taken a typical path into the tech world. But she has been one of the most important and highest-paid executives at Apple up until the company announced on Tuesday that she would be leaving in April.

Apple did not say where or why Ahrendts was leaving, other than to note that she was embarking on “new personal and professional pursuits.” Ahrendts joined Apple in 2014 as its head of retail, filling a position that had been vacant for more than a year. At the time, the tech world was surprised – Ahrendts didn’t have a background in tech and previously had been her own boss; she joined Apple from British fashion house Burberry, where she had served as CEO for eight years.

But Apple has obviously appreciated her. Ahrendts has gotten almost double the compensation of Apple CEO Tim Cook. She’s also been the only female senior executive at the iPhone maker.

Here’s how Ahrendts rose from her origins in a small town outside Indianapolis to becoming an executive at the most valuable company in the world.

Ahrendts grew up in New Palestine, Indiana.

Ahrendts was one of six kids in her family. She was a cheerleader in high school and played tennis and volleyball. She also did gymnastics.

Ahrendts’ athletic prowess may in part be due to her height – she’s just under six feet tall.

Source: The Indianapolis Star

As a kid, Ahrendts sewed her own clothes and dreamed of joining the fashion industry.

“It was always fashion. If you read my high school yearbook, I was [someone] who at 16 knew exactly what I was going to do,” she told The Guardian.

Source: The Wall Street Journal,The Guardian

Ahrendts attended Ball State University in Indiana. The day after her final exams, she moved to New York City, leaving on a one-way ticket.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Ahrendts got her start in sales working for a menswear company. She moved from there to merchandising at bra maker Warnaco, and starting in the late 80s, she served as president of Donna Karan International for six years.

Source: Business of Fashion

In the mid-90s, Ahrendts worked at Henri Bendel and was charged with expanding its number of stores. Ahrendts’ job was to open Bendel stores in 50 new markets, but the company’s board eventually cancelled the project.

Source: Wall Street Journal

In 1998, Ahrendts joined Liz Claiborne. She spent eight years there, eventually working her way up to executive vice president.

Source: Business of Fashion

Ahrendts became CEO of Burberry in 2006 and immediately went to work revitalizing the company.

Her first order of business was shutting down 35 product categories, many of which featured Burberry’s famous check pattern. The company’s brand had been over-licensed over the years, diluting its value.

Source: Business of Fashion

During her tenure at Burberry, Ahrendts pushed the company to adopt new technologies.

Under her leadership, Burberry embraced ecommerce and updated its in-store technology. It also launched new product lines, and the company’s retail operations expanded into new markets.

Source: Business of Fashion

Ahrendts moved her family to the United Kingdom when she joined Burberry. Rather than living in a townhouse in London, the family opted for a 12,000-square-foot manor house in the suburbs, complete with a tennis court and indoor pool.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Ahrendts met her husband, Gregg Couch, in elementary school; they’ve now been together for 40 years.

embed type

The couple had a 17-year long-distance relationship while Ahrendts was living in Manhattan and working 80 hours a week. Couch eventually moved to New York, and he and Ahrendts got married when they were in their 30s.

Couch started his own contracting business after moving to New York, but he gave it up when Ahrendts took over as CEO of Burberry, becoming a stay-at-home dad.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Ahrendts has three children; her son, Jennings, is an aspiring musician. Her other two children are both daughters — Sommer and Angelina.

embed type

Family is important to Ahrendts — she once turned down an invitation to the Oscars to spend more time at home.

Source: Daily Mail

Ahrendts wakes up at 4:35 every morning but doesn’t use an alarm clock. She’s also a Diet Coke addict — she once admitted she drinks five or six cans a day.

Source: Daily Mail,Wall Street Journal

In 2013, Ahrendts became the highest-paid CEO in the UK, taking in $26.3 million.

Source: CNN

While at Burberry, Ahrendts had a clothing allowance of more than $33,000.

She also got an 80% discount on her Burberry purchases.

Ahrendts was often decked out in clothes from Burberry Prorsum – the brand’s haute couture line. She still wears the brand’s clothes even though she no longer works at the company.

Source: The Guardian

In 2014, Ahrendts was named an honorary Dame Commander of the British Empire. She got the honorary DBE title “for her contribution to British business” — during Ahrendts’ tenure at Burberry, the company’s stock price more than tripled.

Source: WWD,Financial Times

In April 2014, Ahrendts became executive vice president of retail at Apple.

The tech giant tasked her with revamping its stores and improving employee morale. It also gave her the charge of making the buying process at its outlets feel more like a luxury experience and of improving the merger of its digital and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.

Source: Fast Company, New York Times

Ahrendts was a fan of Apple even before she joined the company.

“If I look to any company as a model, it’s Apple,” she told the Wall Street Journal while still serving as Burberry’s CEO. “They’re a brilliant design company working to create a lifestyle, and that’s the way I see us.”

Source: Wall Street Journal

She’s been Apple’s best-paid employee, taking in $24.2 million in 2017. That’s twice what Apple CEO Tim Cook made.

Source: Business Insider

In February 2019, Apple announced that Ahrendts will depart the company in April to pursue “new personal and professional pursuits.” Deirdre O’Brien will take over as senior vice president of retail and people.

“The last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career,” Ahrendts said in a statement. “Through the teams’ collective efforts, Retail has never been stronger or better positioned to make an even greater contribution for Apple. I feel there is no better time to pass the baton to Deirdre, one of Apple’s strongest executives. I look forward to watching how this amazing team, under her leadership, will continue to change the world one person and one community at a time.”

Source: Apple

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.