Retail Exec Jerry McDougal Departs Apple

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Now HiringA top retail executive has left Apple, though unlike John Browett, this one wasn't fired. ifoAppleStore reported that Jerry McDougal, Vice-President of Retail, left Apple last Friday after almost 12 years.

Mr. McDougal was recruited to Apple by newly minted retail chief Ron Johnson in 2000. According to ifoAppleStore, Mr. McDougal was Mr. Johnson's right hand man and was key in the early development of Apple's stunningly successful Apple Store retail chain.

He was also widely expected to succeed Ron Johnson when he left Apple in June of 2011 to take over as CEO of department store chain J.C. Penney. Apple CEO Tim Cook instead picked John Browett of European chain Dixons, though Mr. Browett was fired in October of 2012.

It would appear that Mr. McDougal either wasn't picked again or declined the position, considering the fact that he left Apple. ifoAppleStore's sources said that he left to more time with his family.

That is often corporate face-saving-speak for "fired," but in this case it may be true. Apple's executives work long hours, and then some, and he's been doing it for 12 years.

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Apple has the most profitable retail chain on the planet. The company makes more profit per square foot of retail space than any other company—by definition, that includes Tiffany's—and the stores are a key component of Apple's strategy of controlling the message and the flow of both dollars and information to and from its customers.

Ron Johnson's shoes have been some big ones to fill, and it can not be overstated how important it will be to bring in someone who can do just that, fill them. The hiring of John Browett was a mistake, and the next hire has simply got to be right.

It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall of the meetings involving Mr. McDougal's departure. Was he unwilling or unable to take over as retail VP? Was he miffed at not getting the top spot? Was it offered to him? Maybe he truly wants to more (or even some) time with his family?

As stated above, being an executive at Apple is a tough gig. Yes, one can become a multimillionaire many times over in the process, but it does take a toll on family and friends. Accordingly it's hard to read very much into this departure without more information.

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It makes no sense to me why it should be so, but this pattern of bizarre and potentially disastrous retail head departures has for me the strong smell of Tim Cook inexplicably pressuring Ron Johnson and his heir-apperent to get the hell out of Apple, pronto!

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