Versace Loses Its Leader As Burberry Names New CEO

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 24: Models Suki Waterhouse and Cara Delevingne attend the Burberry brings ... + GETTY

Burberry has named Versace’s CEO, Jonathan Akeroyd, as its new CEO effective April 1, 2022. He will replace Marco Gobbetti who joined Burberry in 2017; Gobbetti replaced Christopher Bailey and was charged at the time to re-energize the British brand.

Gobbetti will remain in his current position until the end of the current calendar year. After that Dr. Gerry Murphy, chairman of Burberry, will lead the executive team until Akeroyd joins the company in April.

Jonathan Akeroyd joined Versace in 2016. Prior to that, he led Alexander McQueen for 12 years. At Versace, he has focused on building a stronger merchandising strategy for the business and been working with Donatella Versace to capitalize on the global awareness of the brand. Under his stewardship, the brand returned to profitability and that led to its acquisition by Capri Holdings CPRI +2.2% in 2018 for $2.1 billion.

Akeroyd continued under the Capri’s management to drive the Versace brand more upmarket. This is a similar strategy that Gobbetti used at Burberry. Both executives eliminated lower priced lines, focusing on the respective brand’s mainline collection. At Versace, Akeroyd introduced a new signature print and focused on matching products across the larger accessories and handbag collections.

One feels that Akeroyd’s departure leaves Versace with a mission half complete. He had set a target of $2 billion in gross revenues but the brand still has a long way to go to hit that sales volume. Certainly, the intervening pandemic has slowed the growth of Versace. Revenues for the fiscal year ending March 27, 2021 were down 15 percent to $718 million. Since that report, however, sales have shown a significant pick-up. In the most recent quarter, Versace posted a comparable store sales increase of +136%.

POST SCRIPT: Changes in executive suites often occur because of unhappy relationships or changes in personal priorities. One can guess that the Italian language might have been a cause of miscommunications. Or, maybe Jonathan Akeroyd wanted to return to England after the pandemic. However, Capri is confident about the brand’s growth potential and has begun the search for Akeroyd’s successor. One hopes that Capri will find another dynamic leader for Versace that can follow in the footsteps of the departed CEO. The turnaround of Versace that has been evolving has been spectacular. One can now look forward to new excitement at Burberry.

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