Anonymous, AP
This undated picture made available by Dixons Retails PLC on Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012 shows John Browett in London. Apple Inc. has named Dixons Retail CEO John Browett Tuesday Jan. 31 2012 as its top retail executive, charged with developing the sales strategy for the iPhone and iPad maker as it expands Apple stores around the world. Browett will take on his new job as senior vice president of retail in April. (AP Photo/ Dixons Retails PLC, HO)

NEW YORK — Apple Inc. is reaching over the Atlantic to snatch a British electronics-chain CEO as the head of its own retail operation.

Apple said Tuesday that Dixons Retail PLC's John Browett will become its top retail executive on April 20. He will report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Browett fills a job left open when Ron Johnson left to become the CEO of J.C. Penney Co. in November. Johnson pioneered Apple's highly successful retail stores, known for their stark design and their "Genius Bar" where Apple customers get technology advice and support.

Browett has served as CEO of Dixons since 2007. During his tenure, the company has continued an aggressive expansion in Europe. It has about 1,200 stores and is Europe's second-largest electronics retailer, after Germany's Media Markt. Dixons' brands include Currys, PC World, Elgiganten, Electro World, PC City and Pixmania.

Analysts give Browett credit for improving customer service at Dixons, but his tenure hasn't seen much in the way of financial success, as it's been undercut by the recession and subsequent belt-tightening in Europe.

Dixons' sales have risen only 8 percent in the last five years, and profits are down sharply. The shares have lost more than 90 percent of their value in that time. They fell a further 7.6 percent in London trading Tuesday after news of Browett's departure.

"Our retail stores are all about customer service, and John shares that commitment like no one else we've met," Cook said in a statement Tuesday.

Before Dixons, Browett held several positions at the British retailer Tesco PLC and headed its web site operations.

Dixons named Sebastian James as Group CEO and Katie Bickerstaffe to the newly created role of CEO-U.K. and Ireland.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple's stock rose $4.34 to $457.35 in morning trading.