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From Liz to Burberry: Ahrendts to Replace Bravo as Brand's CEO

Burberry has named Liz Claiborne executive Angela Ahrendts as ceo, succeeding Rose Marie Bravo, who will become vice chairman.

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The selection of Ahrendts is unexpected on two levels, though. Analysts had expected Bravo to be replaced by Burberry's president and chief operating officer Brian Blake, formerly of Gucci Group. But Blake was never actually in the running. "Brian requested that he not be considered for the role due to family circumstances," Peace said in a statement Tuesday.

Ahrendts' current role in the more moderate side of the business also is a bit of a switch. After all, Burberry's parent, Great Universal Stores plc, recruited Bravo from Saks Fifth Avenue.

But Ahrendts obviously has designer experience and even at Liz Claiborne, she has been responsible for such bridge and better women's wear and men's wear brands as Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy, Juicy Couture, DKNY Jeans, Laundry by Shelli Segal and Lucky Brand, rather than the company's core, moderate brand. She was part of the executive team that diversified Liz Claiborne Inc. to 41 brands from 10 with sales of $4.6 billion.

Before joining Claiborne in 1998, she was executive vice president of Henri Bendel. Prior to that, she spent six years as president of Donna Karan International.

"I picked up a lot from the product end at Donna, and Liz has rounded me out at the commercial and the global end," Ahrendts noted.

Asked whether she was ready to fill Bravo's arguably big shoes, or if she felt any pressures to keep up the Burberry momentum that Bravo was able to generate, Ahrendts expressed confidence in her leadership abilities to retain and attract world-class talent and expand the business.

"There are some wonderful underpenetrated markets....There is a lot of growth left," Ahrendts said, pointing to expansion programs that Burberry recently started in India, China and Russia.

Industry executives said Ahrendts is dynamic, driven, and well liked by retail executives and designers.

Glenn McMahon, U.S. president of Dolce & Gabbana, worked with Ahrendts at Donna Karan and Liz Claiborne for a total of eight years. "Angela is a terrific merchant," McMahon said. "She is very well versed in the designer zone, and she has a great balance between the commercial and the design aesthetic. When I heard the news, I thought, this is a perfect next step for Burberry.

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