Burberry on Wednesday announced that Versace CEO Jonathan Akeroyd will be its chief executive officer and executive director, effective April 1 next year. He replaces Marco Gobbetti, who was named CEO in 2016 and will leave in December to lead Ferragamo.
Akeroyd has led Gianni Versace since 2016, where he "reorganised and accelerated growth," according to a Burberry press release.
Before that, from 2004 to 2016, Akeroyd was CEO of Alexander McQueen, and previously also held senior fashion roles at Harrods. At Burberry he will report to Chair Gerry Murphy and the board.
Gobbetti, who in 2017 arrived from Celine with Burberry somewhat in turmoil, made some investors anxious with an ambitious turnaround unveiled later that year. Four years on, however, his unexpected exit announcement over the summer was what rattled nerves.
At that time, GlobalData Associate Retail Analyst Louise Deglise-Favre deemed it the brand's overarching challenge. "[U]nder his reign it has become a much more modern and relevant luxury retailer for the younger generation, so his departure prompts some concern," Deglise-Favre said in emailed comments.
Akeroyd's appointment alleviates that somewhat, according to UBS analysts led by Zuzanna Pusz.
"It removes uncertainty, while at the same time we believe Jonathan Akeroyd is well regarded by the market, having spearheaded the turnaround of Versace and further built on the heritage of the brand," UBS said in a Wednesday client note. "However, worth keeping in mind that the timing of his start date suggests Burberry is unlikely to present an updated strategy until [later in calendar year] 2022 at the earliest, thus delaying its turnaround even further."
In a statement, Murphy emphasized Akeroyd's background with top names. "Jonathan is an experienced leader with a strong track record in building global luxury fashion brands and driving profitable growth," he said. "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."
That does bode well for the brand, according to GlobalData's Deglise-Favre.
"Jonathan Akeroyd has a track record of turning brands around, which is crucial with for Burberry's success," Deglise-Favre said by email Wednesday. "He's managed to bring Versace back to a profitable position and contributed to changing its brand image to upmarket the brand and place it amongst the exclusive luxury players, which is what Burberry has been working towards for the past couple of years."
Still, the timing is somewhat awkward. "The brand finds itself in a peculiar position as Mario Gobbetti's departure came before he completed his long-term strategy and Jonathan Akeroyd will have to either continue Mario Gobbetti's plan or take Burberry in a new direction," Deglise-Favre said.