Burberry Chief Finance Officer’s Departure Ruffles Investors

Burberry Group Plc said Chief Financial Officer Stacey Cartwright is leaving after nine years in the job, ruffling investors at a time when the company has to contend with slowing growth in luxury-goods sales.

Cartwright, 49, will be succeeded by Carol Fairweather, senior vice president of group finance, the largest U.K. luxury company said today. John Smith, a former British Broadcasting Corp. executive, will take up the new position of chief operating officer, Burberry also said.

Burberry fell as much as 6.6 percent in London trading, the steepest intraday drop since Sept. 11 last year. The stock had gained almost fourfold under the executive’s tenure alongside Chief Executive Officer Angela Ahrendts. Under the duo, the company, whose plaid-lined trenchcoats have been modelled by actress Emma Watson, opened stores across the globe and expanded Burberry’s non-apparel business.

In September, however, the company warned of a profit shortfall after eliminating some of its cheapest lines as it sought to nudge its image upscale. Business patterns are uneven and fewer people are visiting stores globally, Cartwright said last month. The market for luxury goods as a whole faces the slowest growth this year since the global financial crisis.

“We and the market overall will be sad to see her go because she’s been a very good CFO,” said Bethany Hocking, an analyst at Investec, by phone.

Fairweather’s Worth

Burberry was down 6.5 percent at 1,337 pence at the 4:30 p.m. close of trading in London, the steepest drop in the U.K. FTSE 100 Index. The shares have advanced 9.1 percent this year.

Because Fairweather isn’t well known by the investment community, “I don’t think anyone knows what she’s worth,” Peter Farren, an analyst at Bryan Garnier in Paris, said by phone, explaining the stock’s reaction today.

Fairweather, 51, who previously worked at companies including News International Ltd., has been with Burberry six years. She will succeed Cartwright after July’s annual shareholder meeting, the London-based company said today. Cartwright plans to pursue “new interests,” Burberry said.

Smith, 55, a Burberry non-executive director since 2009, will take up his new role on March 4. At the BBC, which he joined in 1989, Smith was CEO of BBC Worldwide between 2005 and 2012. He will work on Burberry’s branding strategy, especially in digital media and mobile technology, Burberry said.

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