Apple CEO Tim Cook allegedly defends new SVP of Retail amid criticisms

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014


As some pundits have questioned the wisdom in Apple's decision to bring an outsider in as its new Senior Vice President of Retail, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has reportedly defended the hiring in an email, noting that he talked to many people and Dixons CEO John Browett was "the best by far."



The Cupertino, Calif., company surprised industry watchers on Monday when it announced that it had hired Browett as its new head of retail. Some noted that the move was uncharacteristic for the company, as Apple's executive team is largely composed of long-time veterans.



Still others worried that Browett would change Apple Stores to become more like Dixons' locations, which the Telegraph recently described as "functional and competitive on price, but…not a place for anyone other than a die-hard technophile to while away a Sunday afternoon."



One concerned Apple customer went so far as to express his fears directly to Cook in an email. U.K. blogger and photographer Tony Hart wrote that Dixons has a "spectacularly bad reputation" and are considered to be "one of the worst retailers in the U.K."



"Please do not let standards slip," he pleaded. "Hopefully John Browett will do a superb job, and none of my concerns will come to fruition, but please, do not turn Apple's retail experience into Dixons or allow the Apple brand to become watered down and weak."



Cook allegedly responded within hours: "I talked to many people and John was the best by far. I think you will be as pleased as I am. His role isn't to bring Dixons to Apple, [it's] to bring Apple to an even higher level of customer service and satisfaction."



Though emails are relatively easy to fake and Hart himself claims that "it's hard to be sure whether the writer of the email was Tim Cook himself or simply someone writing on his behalf," the message's contents do line up with the company's public stance on Browett's hiring.



For instance, Cook said earlier this week in a press release that Browett shares the same commitment to customer service "like no one else" the company had met. “We are thrilled to have him join our team and bring his incredible retail experience to Apple,” he added.





John Browett, Apple's new SVP of Retail. | Credit: Dixons







Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple had hired executive headhunter firm Egon Zehnder to help with the search for a replacement for then retail chief Ron Johnson, who had announced he was to leave Apple for J.C. Penney in November 2011. According to the Telegraph, Browett was at first resistant to interview for the job, so much so that a friend at the recruiting firm "had to strong arm him into the initial interview."



Browett was then reportedly "quickly won over" by the humility and drive of Apple's leadership. The report noted that he and Cook bonded over their commitment to excellence in customer service.



Though others have voiced concerns about the hire, analysts covering Apple have generally reacted favorably to the news. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said on Wednesday that she considers Browett "a net positive hire." RBC's Mike Abramsky called Browett "well regarded" and "proactive."



UBS analyst Maynard Um described Cook's first senior management hiring as "positive in helping to further drive international expansion." According to him, Browett's fit with Apple is that, while at Dixons, he "executed internal changes and better shopping & advisory experiences (similar to Apple's focus on the customer experience)."



Browett is set to relocate to Apple's Cupertino headquarters in April. He holds a degree from Cambridge and an MBA from Wharton Business School. Prior to joining Dixons in 2007, he was CEO of Tesco.com.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?
  • Reply 2 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said on Wednesday that she considers Browett "a net positive hire."



    Faint praise indeed.
  • Reply 3 of 54
    chabigchabig Posts: 640member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


    Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?



    I love Fresh and Easy.
  • Reply 4 of 54
    It's definitely real. I received the same reply as Tony after emailing Tim.
  • Reply 5 of 54
    I'm watching. I may place stop-loss orders on my modest AAPL holding.
  • Reply 6 of 54
    Let me understand this: it makes sense for an Apple-type guy to end up at a J C Penney, but not for a J C Penney-type to end up at Apple? How is some guy from the Telegraph able to judge this any better than Apple?
  • Reply 7 of 54
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


    Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?



    Bit of a stretch there, Mr. Huber. Don't think he had anything to do with F & E, and even so, this kind of thing happens when chains expand. Cf. Starbucks a few years ago when Schultz came back. And Hemet and Bakersfield are in the L.A. area? No Brit could psych out those markets in advance.
  • Reply 8 of 54
    l008coml008com Posts: 163member
    That guy was great on "The Kids In The Hall"
  • Reply 9 of 54
    Apple didn't hire Ron Johnson to bring Target to the Apple Stores either.. Worked out just fine for Apple.
  • Reply 10 of 54
    I have no idea if he'll be good. But I did wonder about this (my emphasis) "Browett was at first resistant to interview for the job, so much so that a friend at the recruiting firm "had to strong arm him into the initial interview.""
  • Reply 11 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


    Tesco which owns Fresh 'n Easy markets is closing stores right and left in the L.A. area due to bad decisions on timing, location, and I daresay the entire conception of trying to bring their stores to the U.S. to compete with Trader Joes et al. Is this the guy we want minding the store?



    Yes coz the dude that hasn't worked at Tesco since the early 2000s is responsible for stores closing left and right in the LA area.
  • Reply 12 of 54
    Cook knows best how to run Apple. Jobs knew it too. You supported Jobs, you should support Cook too, and quit scrutinizing his decisions.
  • Reply 13 of 54
    ahmlcoahmlco Posts: 432member
    "...noting that he talked to many people and Dixons CEO John Browett was "the best by far.""



    Keep looking.
  • Reply 14 of 54
    Never saw a single reason to question one of Cook's decisions.
  • Reply 15 of 54
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,825member
    How many retailers in the consumer electronics industry have done well in the recession?



    Browett surely knows the segment of retail Apple needs.
  • Reply 16 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anfboymn View Post


    Cook knows best how to run Apple. Jobs knew it too. You supported Jobs, you should support Cook too, and quit scrutinizing his decisions.



    Replace "Cook" with "Sculley" in that statement.

    Is it always true that Jobs' hand-picked CEOs are somehow above scrutiny?
  • Reply 17 of 54
    eksodoseksodos Posts: 186member
    My biggest concern is this new guy doesn't look much like a magician. This is bad news for the future of Apple.
  • Reply 18 of 54
    Browett was NEVER CEO of Tesco; he ran it's Home Delivery service called "Tesco Online". He WAS however CEO of Dixons, where his influence was only noticeable by its lack of effect. Maybe not his fault, but please don't give him credit where none is due.



    As for Dixons having "competitive prices" don't make me laugh! They are consistently expensive, as anyone with no competitors is. At least 30% more than you can buy on the internet or in different European countries.



    Tim Cook is right to look for someone who understands Europe better; it's a very undeveloped market for Apple with little effort having been made to sell there.
  • Reply 19 of 54
    My experience has been that British managers are surprisingly tricky to work with. The cultural gap is much greater than anyone at first appreciates.

    I was below them and not above them as Cook is, but senior US managers in my organization had similar issues.

    Unless either Cook has real experience working with British executives, or Browett knows how to communicate with Americans, this could be a more difficult match than it first appears. The reason it's tricky is that British and Americans executives with little prior experience may think they understand each other, but they really don't. The fact that Browett appears to have little if any US retail experience is another concern. Americans and British do not shop the same way.

    His international experience is really quite minimal. Dixons is a UK chain with a smattering of subsidiaries in minor European locales, and it lost 80% of its stock value under Browett's tenure (though recall that retail has been hit hard in Europe).

    Having said all that, the guy is probably very smart and if he is flexible and willing to learn, may be able to adjust quickly and prove his worth. Like anybody in a new job, he should be given some time, at least a year, before anyone comes to conclusions. But from outside, the choice does look a little odd to me.
  • Reply 20 of 54
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SwissMac2 View Post


    Tim Cook is right to look for someone who understands Europe better; it's a very undeveloped market for Apple with little effort having been made to sell there.



    True, but does Browett really understand Europe? Dixons has no stores in France or Germany, the most important markets and each with a particular culture. Some random holdings in Scandinavia, Turkey, Greece, and the Czech Republic, not even using the Dixons name, are all I can find mention of.
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