Former Apple retail chief Ahrendts, an Indiana native, joins Airbnb board

Airbnb Inc. is adding Angela Ahrendts, a high-profile luxury retail executive and Hancock County native, to its board of directors.

Ahrendts, 58, joins the home-sharing startup after a five-year stint overhauling Apple Inc.’s retail operations and more than eight years as CEO of British high-end fashion house Burberry Group Plc. She grew up in New Palestine and received an undergraduate degree in merchandising and marketing from Ball State University in 1981.

Airbnb, which is preparing for a public stock offering next year, has been broadening its mission to become an end-to-end travel company, and has been moving to add more luxury listings to its six million homes on offer.

“Angela has a reputation for pushing brands to dream big, and she told me that’s exactly what she hopes to bring to Airbnb’s Board," CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement.

The Indiana Historical Society this week named Ahrendts to its 2019 class of Living Legends.

Under Ahrendts’ watch at Apple, the iPhone maker overhauled its retail operations, redesigning stores into sleek Starbucks-like meeting places with customer service “geniuses” roaming the shop floor. But she was also criticized by some Apple employees for turning the stores into an exercise in branding, that no longer served customers’ basic needs.

Ahrendts has been consistently named a Top 100 Global Executive in rankings by Forbes and Fortune. During her tenure at Burberry, Ahrendts transformed the company into a global luxury brand, tripling the business.

“She has led global brands through transformation, completely redefined the retail experience and done it all while putting customers and communities first,” Chesky said. “I’m so excited for her to join our board and know her innovative thinking will make us a better company."

Ahrendts also is currently serving on the board of Ralph Lauren Corp. She is the third independent non-affiliated board member to join Airbnb, alongside former American Express Co. CEO Ken Chenault and Ann Mather, a former chief financial officer at Pixar Inc. who also serves on the board of Netflix Inc. and Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.

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