Xerox CEO Ann Mulcahy told shareholders at their annual meeting Thursday that she is stepping down in July — though she'll stay on as chairwoman. She is widely credited with helping turn around the company after it came close to bankruptcy.
Mulcahy's handpicked successor is Ursula Burns, an African-American woman who rose through the ranks to take the top spot.
Burns has played a pivotal role at Xerox in recent years: overseeing corporate strategy, global accounts, IT and human resources. She has been at Mulcahy's side during her efforts to revitalize Xerox. Burns is credited with negotiating with the company's unions to cut thousands of jobs.
Xerox's share price is still low, but the company is profitable again and has gained market share. Burns talked about the company's turnaround at Oregon State University in September.
"We are poised for greatness and for success. We have pulled ourselves back from the brink of bankruptcy and taught ourselves that we can do just about anything we aspire to do, if we work hard and put our head down."
Burns, 50, grew up in a New York City housing project and went on to get a master's degree in engineering at Columbia University. She started at Xerox as a summer intern in 1980.
Burns will become one of a very small group of female CEOs. She will be the only African-American woman to head one of the 150 largest U.S. companies.