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Dixons boss John Browett swaps Hemel Hempstead for Apple’s California HQ

Since he joined Dixons from Tesco in 2007, John Browett has made a good stab at repairing the chain’s reputation for shoddy customer service, and improving its financial position

There was more than a hint of irony in John Browett’s voice as he welcomed a journalist to a vast Currys megastore on London’s North Circular ring road last year: “Welcome to the technology temple of delight.” From April, however, Browett will be able to leave the irony at the door.

The 48-year-old Cambridge and Wharton Business School executive is swapping Dixons’ headquarters in Hemel Hempstead for Apple’s Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California, where he’ll be in charge of one of the most profitable retail busineses in the world, the 361-strong Apple Stores chain.

Browett, who doesn’t wear a tie and hates the typical boardroom “suit” approach to business life, is likely to fit in well at Apple, where the late Steve Jobs famously wore a black polo shirt and jeans at almost every public gathering.

He says he’s not in it for the money, but one imagines Browett, who collected £1m in pay and bonuses from Dixons last year, is likely to receive a significant jump in his pay packet when he turns up in California in April. “I am not particularly motivated by money, power or celebrity. I think that those things are frankly for the birds, I don’t really care about them,” he told the Telegraph last summer. “What really drives me is if I can see I can make a difference, and I saw that I could do something different with Dixons. I did not foresee the consumer recession which we’ve had – nobody did – but are we still on plan with what we said we would do? Yes, we are.”

Two weeks ago, when Dixons presented a 5% decline in like-for-like sales over Christmas as a “solid” performance, most of the City’s retail watchers agreed Browett had done a terrific job of turning around the high street electronics chain. Since he joined Dixons from Tesco in 2007 he’s made a good stab at repairing the chain’s reputation for shoddy customer service, and improving its financial position, leaving the company confident it can repay a make-or-break £160m bond later this year.

The 5% decline in sales, which was mainly caused by economic problems affecting its operations in Greece and Italy, was welcomed by the City. Philip Dorgan, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said the performance pointed to light at the end of the tunnel for Dixons, which has lost 90% of its market value since the dotcom bubble burst in 2001. “The most important trading period of the year is over and with other retailers dropping like flies, these numbers have to be mildly encouraging. We think that it can repay its bonds this year, helped by planned lower capital expenditure and cost savings.”

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said he was “thrilled” that Browett was joining the team and described his retail experience as “incredible”.

Browett previously held a series of executive positions at Tesco, including chief executive of Tesco.com, but was not seen as a contender for the top job when Sir Terry Leahy stepped down.

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