Apple is not doing much to quell rumours that she was pushed following a downturn in sales or that something else is wrong. The outfit has refused to tell people about the sales and profitability of its stores for years. Investors can’t see whether Ahrendts’ departure, announced on Tuesday, signifies problems or a job well done.
Ahrendts collected $24.2 million in 2017 - double Apple CEO Tim Cook’s salary. She's also been the only female senior executive at the iPhone maker.
Apple’s current human resources leader, Deirdre O’Brien, will take over the company’s retail and online store operations. O’Brien will continue to lead Apple’s HR team as well. She’s been at the company for three decades.
Apple has already added O’Brien to its executive leadership page as the company’s head of retail — suggesting that Ahrendts may be stepping down immediately. Apple’s press release can be interpreted that way as well.
However, Apple’s normal approach to unpleasant news is to shut down and stick its fingers in its ears and go lalalala every time some one asked a tricky question. It has stopped disclosing unit sales of iPhones, Macs and iPads and then issued a profit warning a few months later. The company said little about its watch sales when that product had a slow start and of course if there are bugs and other problems they just happen to a small number of people. This means that there might be something wrong and we would never know about it
Ahrendts was a surprise choice when she joined Apple five years ago, having stepped down as the leader of a top fashion company to take the position. At the time, Apple was moving toward the release of the Apple Watch, which it had initially wanted to pitch as something akin to a luxury watch. That failed badly until Apple returned the watch to its consumer role.
However, Ahrendts had a long time to recover that and most of the Tame Apple Press is writing gushing farewell pieces.
What is possible is that Ahrendts herself has realised that Apple’s star is sinking and a high-flier like her wants to go before things get embarrassing.