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Report: Apple won't hire internally to replace retail chief

Apple will not be hiring from within its own organization in order to choose a head of its retail division, according to a new report.

Apple's retail operations have been without a permanent head ever since the departure of John Browett in October of last year. CEO Tim Cook has been running the division since Browett's departure, and the iPhone maker has retained recruitment firm Egon Zehnder International to locate a replacement, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

Despite the search, Apple has yet to settle on a finalist to head up its retail arm, and the company has reportedly turned down and been turned down by a number of candidates in the process. Among those rejected were wireless and telecommunications industry executives, according to sources. One CEO of a privately held French retailer declined Apple's interest, believing that it would be hard to change the company's culture as an outsider.

Despite the difficulties in locating a suitable candidate, the Journal's report makes plain that Apple will not be hiring from within the company to find Browett's replacement.

The former Apple executive was brought in in January of last year, replacing Ron Johnson, who had helmed the company's retail business for 10 years before moving on to an eventually disastrous tenure at JCPenney. Prior to joining Apple, Browett had served as CEO both at Dixons and Tesco.

Browett attempted to make Apple retail stores "learn to run leaner in all areas, even if the customer experience is compromised." He encouraged a much heavier focus on sales, sometimes calling for teaching-oriented employees to join the sales floor between classes.

Cook has held the reins of retail since Browett's short tenure ended, and Apple stores are still springing up around the world. The perception has grown among some observers, though, that the magic has faded somewhat. Retail earnings this past quarter were flat year-over-year.

Still, the company plans to open nine new stores in the next quarter and to relocate 23 other locations over the course of fiscal 2013.