Shares in Burberry tumbled this morning after chief executive Marco Gobbetti announced he was quitting the British fashion brand to return to his native Italy.
The company earlier said Gobbetti would be leaving at the end of the year to take up a position that would allow him to return to Italy, adding that it will now begin the search for his successor.
The fashion boss will take up the top job at Ferragamo, which is famous for shoes worn by Hollywood stars such as Audrey Hepburn.
Shares in London-listed Burberry dropped almost 10 per cent in early trading as investors responded to the shock exit.
Chairman Gerry Murphy said he was “naturally disappointed” at Gobbetti’s decision to step down after nearly five years but fully respected his decision to return to Italy after almost two decades abroad.
Gobbetti said it had been an “incredible privilege” to lead the company, adding: “With Burberry re-energised and firmly set on a path to strong growth, I feel that now is the right time for me to step down.”
Under the Italian’s leadership Burberry has shifted further upmarket with more high-end products, and its shares have gained more than a third in value since the start of his tenure.
The brand, best known for its iconic check fabric, said in May that sales were recovering from the pandemic thanks in part to a rebound in China, but warned that profit margins would be dented by higher investment.
The move is the latest high-profile role for 62-year-old Gobbetti, who led luxury brands Celine, Givenchy and Moschino before joining Burberry.