TWO of the City’s biggest names shocked investors yesterday by stepping down from their jobs, leaving gaping holes at the top of multi-billion pound firms.
Invesco’s star fund manager Neil Woodford announced he would leave the company next year after more than two decades, while Burberry chief executive Angela Ahrendts has spectacularly quit the luxury designer to take an executive role at Apple.
The surprise news wiped more than £700m off Burberry’s market cap as shares plummeted by almost eight per cent, while Invesco shareholders also rushed to sell, knocking 6.4 per cent off the trust’s stock price.
Woodford runs around £30bn of UK savings and is widely regarded as the most successful fund manager in the country, while Ahrendts has almost quadrupled Burberry’s sales during her seven years at the top after leading a huge expansion charge into booming Asian markets.
But neither is likely to stay out of the spotlight for long. Woodford said yesterday he planned to set up a new fund management company “as soon as possible after April 29 2014”, while Ahrendts will join US giant Apple to head up its retail and online stores – including a network of 408 outlets across 13 countries with quarterly revenues that can top $6bn.
Both Ahrendts and Woodford will be succeeded by company veterans. Burberry’s creative director Christopher Bailey – credited with turning around the brand from its downmarket 1990s image – will take over the top job from Ahrendts, despite having no experience of running a blue-chip business.
Meanwhile Woodford will hand over the reins to new head of equities Mark Barnett, an Invesco fund manager whose returns have regularly beaten the market – though they have lagged noticeably behind his legendary predecessor.