Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts Joins Apple
Apple retail boss Angela Ahrendts is highest paid employee of 2014, thanks to massive signing-on bonusReuters

Apple's head of retail and former Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts saw her pay package eclipse CEO Tim Cook's by almost eight times, totalling $73.3m last year.

The vast majority - stock worth $70m (£47m) - came as part of a signing-on bonus after she joined the company's retail division in May 2014, while the rest was made up of a basic salary of $1m, a bonus of $1.6m and a $500,000 hiring bonus.

By contrast, Apple chief executive Cook took home $9.22m, which included his base salary of $1.75m, a $6.7m bonus, and "other" compensation of $774,000 for the company's 2014 fiscal year, which ended in September. The figures comes from a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As CEO of Burberry, Ahrendts was one of the UK's highest-paid executives before she left to join Apple in California, and held shares in the fashion company worth $37m. The technology company awarded her an equal amount in shares as compensation for the Burberry stock she had to leave behind when switching jobs. Apple also gave her $33m of stock as a new hire incentive.

The iPhone and iPad maker has every reason to pay US-born Ahrendts handsomely, as its high-street stores occupy some of the most profitable retail space in the world - and her experience of the fashion industry will be crucial if the upcoming Apple Watch is to be a success.

Still struggling in its infancy, the smartwatch market is mostly made up of sub-£200 devices that look and work more like wrist-worn computers than designer watches. With Apple's contribution to the market, the company will hope to draw on Ahrendts' experience to change this, pitching it against fashion houses and traditional watchmakers.

Having made its first and only public appearance in a shop window during Paris Fashion Week, Apple's plans for the Watch are obvious. This eagerness to enter the fashion market is magnified by the range of its watches, stretching from sport-focused models priced at $349, up to an estimated several thousand dollars for models made of rose gold.

It does not have an official release date yet but current estimates claim the Apple Watch will go on sale in March.