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Julie Brown to Step Down at Burberry as Shares Slide

LONDON – Julie Brown, Burberry’s chief operating and chief financial officer who joined the business in 2017 and who helped to shepherd it through Brexit and the COVID-19 crisis, is stepping down early next year.

Burberry said Brown is leaving “to take up an opportunity outside of the luxury industry,” adding that the process to identify Brown’s successor is underway, and further updates will be revealed in due course.

Burberry’s shares were down 3.7 percent to 16.54 pounds in mid-morning trading, following the announcement. The overall FTSE index is also down as Prime Minister Liz Truss’ government unveiled sweeping tax cuts on Friday morning.

The announcements have rattled the financial markets, which are still getting to grips with sharp interest rate increases, an impending recession and the plummeting pound.

Burberry confirmed on Friday that Brown would leave on April 1, 2023, which is the close of the company’s fiscal year.

Brown was originally hired by Burberry’s former chief executive officer and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey and her double role as chief operating officer and CFO was a new one. Her job was big, and her salary was second to that of the CEO’s.

Brown’s exit comes amid impending change on the corporate, and creative sides, at Burberry.

Burberry’s new CEO, Jonathan Akeroyd, is set to lay out his strategy for the company in November, and questions continue to hover over the future of chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci, whose contract expires early next year.

Tisci will show his spring 2023 collection on Monday and speculation is rife that it will be his final one for the brand.

Rumors have been swirling that Daniel Lee, the former head of design at Bottega Veneta, could be the designer to succeed Tisci. Burberry said it does not comment on speculation.

Gerry Murphy, chair of Burberry, said that Brown made a “significant contribution to Burberry’s transformation, including her central role in delivering our sustainability ambitions. Julie has built a strong financial base for the next chapter of Burberry’s growth under Jonathan’s leadership.”

Akeroyd said that Brown “has played a key role in positioning Burberry for growth, supported by a high-quality team. I would like to personally thank her for the support she has provided me since I joined six months ago. I look forward to building on the strong foundations we have in place to realise Burberry’s full potential.”

Brown added that, during her tenure, the group “strengthened the brand and business and has taken an industry-leading position in sustainability. I am particularly proud of our work to navigate Burberry through the pandemic, remaining true to our values and delivering transformational change across Finance, IT, Burberry Business Services and Responsibility,” she said.

Brown, whose role took in finance, investor relations, IT, global business service and business transformation, has been a strong asset to Burberry over the past six years.

Alongside the company’s former CEO Marco Gobbetti, she helped to guide Burberry through the maze of costly post-Brexit compliance and trade regulations.

On her watch, Burberry also offered advice to the British government as the Brexit deal with the EU was being hammered out, and supplied PPE to NHS hospitals during the pandemic, making medical masks and gowns at its Yorkshire trenchcoat factories.

As reported, Burberry won a 573,000-pound contract from the government in September 2020 to make gowns and PPE.

The agreement was in addition to the 160,000-plus pieces of PPE which Burberry manufactured at its trenchcoat factory in Castleford, Yorkshire, and donated to the NHS and health care charities in the early days of COVID-19.

Before joining Burberry, Brown served as chief financial officer at the medical technology business Smith & Nephew plc.

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.
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