Burberry poaches Jonathan Akeroyd from Versace

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British fashion house Burberry named Jonathan Akeroyd as its new chief executive officer from next April, poaching the boss of Milan-based Gianni Versace and former Alexander McQueen head to succeed Marco Gobbetti.

The 165-year-old group has been searching for a replacement for Gobbetti since June, when he announced his shock departure mid-way into a multi-year turnaround plan to take the brand further upmarket.

Shares in Burberry, which have extended losses since the announcement of Gobbetti’s departure and were trading 19% down on June levels, rose 1% in early trading on Wednesday.

Burberry, known for its trench coats, trademark plaid and TB monogram, said Akeroyd, a 54-year-old Briton, was the right choice to build on its creative heritage.

Akeroyd accelerated growth during his five years at Italy’s Versace, Burberry said. He oversaw the sale of the house to U.S. label Michael Kors in 2018.

Versace’s sales rebounded in the latest quarter reported by its renamed parent Capri Holdings, with revenue of $240 million up 158% year on year and a return to profit after the COVID-19 impact a year earlier.

Before joining Versace, Akeroyd led the turnaround of British luxury brand Alexander McQueen from 2004-2016.

Berenberg analysts said Akeroyd had “lots of luxury CEO experience of leading houses – as well as brand turnarounds”.

He would earn an annual salary of 1.1 million pounds ($1.5 million), plus bonuses, and would be granted cash and share payments worth about 6 million pounds for incentives he forfeits at Versace.

Like other luxury brands, Burberry was hit by COVID-19, but it has recovered, driven by demand in Asia.

It said in July its like-for-like sales had risen above pre-pandemic levels, driven by new, younger fans of Riccardo Tisci, the designer who Gobbetti brought in to revitalise the brand and who investors are relieved is staying put.

Gobbetti’s departure was described as a personal decision to return to Italy, where he will lead the Italian luxury goods group Ferragamo.

He will leave Burberry on Dec. 31. The group said Murphy would chair the executive committee for the four months until Akeroyd joins in April.

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