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Xerox turnaround leader retiring; CEO adds role

Tue, 03/30/2010 - 12:30pm
ANDREW VANACORE - AP Business Writer - Associated Press

Xerox Corp.'s chief executive will try to copy the success of her predecessor now that it's her company to run.

CEO Ursula M. Burns — the first black woman to lead a company as big as Xerox — will add the role of chairman when Anne M. Mulcahy, 57, retires May 20.

That will leave Xerox without the leader who spent the past decade reshaping a company that had been on the verge of disaster. Mulcahy took charge in 2001 amid mounting losses and a federal investigation into the company's accounting practices. She is credited with leading Xerox out of its slump with better products and a strict eye on costs. She relinquished the CEO title to Burns last July.

Xerox declined to make either executive available for an interview.

Even after recent progress, Burns, 51, has a lot of work to do. Xerox has seen its revenue stagnate because the recession crimped corporate spending on printers, copiers and the supplies that keep those machines going. The company has resorted to layoffs; Xerox announced in January that it would cut another 2,500 employees after 3,000 layoffs last year. Each cut amounted to 5 percent of the work force Xerox had at the time.

Burns, who joined Xerox in 1980, made her first big move as CEO in September, hoping to find a new source of growth with the $6.4 billion acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services Inc.

The company handles important back-office functions for other businesses, putting Xerox in the race among tech companies to offer customers a broader selection of services.

It is a similar strategy to the ones being followed by Dell Inc., which bought the services firm Perot Systems Corp. last year, and Hewlett-Packard Co., which took over Electronic Data Systems Corp. in 2008.

Xerox hopes to become a more indispensable partner for its customers, taking on important back-office functions rather than just selling them printers and copiers. While spending on office equipment is discretionary and liable to fall off in a recession, ACS offers its services in long-term contracts that provide more stable income.

Shares of Xerox, which is based on Norwalk, Conn., fell 4 cents to close at $9.69 Tuesday.

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