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Former BBC Chief Heads to Burberry

John Smith is to become chief operating officer, a new post.

LONDON — Burberry Group plc sent a clear signal this week about the scale of its ambitions in the digital media arena.

On Thursday, in a shake-up of top management, Burberry named former BBC executive John Smith chief operating officer, a new post. He will report to chief executive officer Angela Ahrendts.

From 2005 to 2012, Smith served as ceo of BBC Worldwide, the commercial subsidiary of the BBC that broadcasts to 350 million subscribers in more than 100 countries.

At the BBC, Smith turned the popular British TV shows “Doctor Who,” “Top Gear” and “Dancing With the Stars” into global franchises. According to Burberry, he also brought the Web site bbc.com into profit a year ahead of schedule and launched the BBC’s new commercial Global iPlayer, an on-demand playback facility, in 16 countries.

Smith has served as a non-executive director on Burberry’s board since December 2009, and he will continue in that capacity until he takes up his new role as an executive director on March 4.

“This is a hugely exciting time to be joining the executive team at Burberry,” Smith said. “From my three years on the board, I understand the significant opportunities that exist for the business globally and the unique culture that drives its performance. Having had the chance to develop one great British brand on the global stage, it is my privilege now to begin a new chapter at another.”

An industry source said it was not surprising that Smith landed the job. “He was always spoken of reverentially within Burberry, and he was the one board member you really heard talked about,” said the source.

Another industry source said, “Burberry has always been very keen on being more than a fashion and luxury company. It is a FTSE 100 company that aims to be an innovator in the digital space and produce content that sells merchandise.”

Burberry has been at the forefront of digital technology innovation in the luxury space, live-streaming its men’s and women’s fashions shows; allowing customers to order online immediately following the runway shows; launching an in-house social networking site, Art of the Trench, and seeking to fuse the online and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.

Burberry is also in the thick of setting up an in-house beauty business, and digital and mobile media innovations will no doubt be crucial to its success.

Burberry said separately that Stacey Cartwright, the company’s chief financial officer and a prominent, well-regarded member of the brand’s executive team, will step down after nine years to pursue new interests.

She will be succeeded by Carol Fairweather, who has been named cfo-designate with immediate effect and will become cfo after Cartwright’s departure following the annual general meeting in July.

Fairweather has been with Burberry for six years, most recently as senior vice president, group finance.