Xerox Corp.’s Ursula Burns, who takes the reins at the world’s largest high-speed color printer maker in less than six weeks, has a mandate: getting budget-cutting customers to increase spending on office equipment.
Burns, 50, will become chief executive officer on July 1, ending the eight-year run of Anne Mulcahy, who will stay on as chairman. Mulcahy, 56, named Burns president in 2007, almost three decades after Burns joined Xerox as a summer intern.
Burns, who will be the first black female CEO among Fortune 500 companies, has to work on maintaining Xerox’s cash flow and improving the product line, said John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, where Burns served as a director. Her promotion follows two straight quarters of sales declines amid the worst economic slump in more than 50 years.
“It’s a very daunting time to be a businessman in America,” said Engler, who met Burns in 2004. “Ursula brings a real set of skills. She’s creative, very direct. This will be a very peaceful transition.”
Burns, who has a master’s degree from Columbia University, joined Norwalk, Connecticut-based Xerox in 1980 with an interest in mechanical engineering. Since then, she has run different divisions including product development and marketing.