British fashion brand Burberry announces appointment of new CEO

British fashion brand Burberry has announced the appointment of Jonathan Akeroyd as Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, effective April 1 2022.

A British national, Jonathan, 54, is currently Chief Executive Officer of Milan-based Gianni Versace SpA, a position he has held since June 2016. In his tenure at Versace, Jonathan has reorganised and accelerated growth at the iconic Italian fashion house, building on the brand’s rich creative heritage to elevate product, communications and the customer experience.

Jonathan was previously Chief Executive Officer of Alexander McQueen from 2004 to 2016, during which time he led a turnaround of the British luxury brand and laid the foundation for global expansion. He has also held a number of senior fashion roles at London-based luxury department store Harrods. Jonathan will join Burberry on 1 April 2022 and will report to Chair Gerry Murphy and the Board of Directors.

Gerry Murphy, Chair of Burberry commented: “I am delighted that Jonathan Akeroyd will be joining Burberry as our next Chief Executive Officer. Jonathan is an experienced leader with a strong track record in building global luxury fashion brands and driving profitable growth. He shares our values and our ambition to build on Burberry’s unique British creative heritage and his deep luxury and fashion industry expertise will be key to advancing the next phase of Burberry’s evolution.”

Jonathan Akeroyd said: “I am honoured to be joining Burberry as Chief Executive Officer. I have long admired Burberry’s position as the most iconic British luxury brand and I have a deep affection for its storied heritage. I am looking forward to returning to London where I first built my career in the luxury industry to join a talented team with ambitious plans for the future and a strong platform to accelerate growth.”

Jonathan will succeed Marco Gobbetti as Burberry Chief Executive Officer. Marco will step down from the role and leave Burberry on 31 December 2021. Gerry Murphy will chair the Executive Committee from this date until Jonathan joins Burberry.

Versace boss set to step into big shoes as new CEO of Burberry

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown shares her thoughts on the announcement.

Marco Gobbetti’s exit leaves big shoes to fill at Burberry, and given his experience Jonathan Akeroyd should be able to step into them with style.

He has a proven track record in building global brands and his successful tenure at Versace is testament to that reputation.

But more significantly he’s shown he can steer a fashion ship potentially floating off course, as he managed adeptly at Alexander McQueen following the death of its founding designer.

As the pandemic effect eases and Burberry’s boutiques all open back up fully, particularly in international travel hubs, Akeroyd’s years of experience managing the shop floor at Harrods also should give him a deep understanding of the needs of the retail business as well as overseeing the brand’s creative development.

The fusion Burberry has been pursuing between social media celebrities and the blockchain, including the launch of NFTs in the gaming world, is also likely to continue under his watch, given that has already been a trend pursued by Versace with collaborations between the brand and the Tik Tok influencer Addison Rae. Burberry’s ultra-savvy marketing drives are helping the company win new style hungry customers across the world, desperate to get their hands on a slice of the brand and willing to pay full price for the privilege, and so there isn’t likely to be a big change to this tried and test formula.

It won’t be plain sailing though for the new CEO. With new covid variants still disrupting economies around the world, there is still uncertainty ahead. Europe is a weak spot for the company, with comparable store sales still sharply lower than two years ago. There are also lingering concerns about a slowdown in China, a lucrative market for luxury brands, which has dragged down Burberry’s share price in recent days

Given the announcement of Mr Akeroyd’s departure from Versace mentioned family in the UK as the reason for his exit, there will be an expectation that this could be the start of a longer term tenure at Burberry, which would be welcomed by investors, who would prefer not see regular change at the top.