Morning Coffee Feb 01 2012

Apple's New 'Smartest Guy in the Room'

By damian ghigliotty

The era of the insider at Apple may be over.

The iPad and iPhone maker that made shopping for electronics exciting again named a Brit from a struggling European retail chain to replace Ron Johnson as head of its retail stores. John Browett, 48, chief executive of the European electronics store Dixons Retail PLC, joins Apple in April.

The move is unusual for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, which under the late Steve Jobs promoted trusted insiders to run major operations. Browett is known as a very strategic and bright retail executive, but can appear intellectually arrogant, people who know him said. His biggest weakness is his interpersonal skills, one executive recruiter told FINS. That was something Johnson excelled at the way Jobs excelled at designing and marketing top-selling products.

"It's a great move for John," said the recruiter. "He was probably the smartest guy in the room at Dixons. But there are a lot of smart people at Apple. He's got to go in there and connect with the culture and the people."

Before joining Dixons, Browett spent nine years at Tesco, one of the U.K.'s biggest retailers and considered among its best run. He was Tesco's director of strategy from 1998 to 2000, then chief executive of from 2000 to 2003, then head of U.K. operations from 2003 to 2007.

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