Teneo taps former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns as chairwoman after shakeup

Former Xerox boss Ursula Burns was tapped as chairwoman of Teneo as the embattled consulting firm grapples with the resignation of CEO Declan Kelly over drunken behavior at a charity event.

The ex-Xerox CEO said she will focus on improving Teneo’s culture while also maintaining and growing the firm’s illustrious roster of well-heeled corporate clients, Teneo said Tuesday. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

A former Teneo client and paid senior adviser, Burns, 62, said she “has a deep understanding of the business” and the “needs of its clients.”

“The firm’s people are among the best advisers in the world, providing a unique combination of services not available at other firms,” Burns said. “I have a deep understanding of the business, the needs of its clients, and a sincere appreciation for all the great Teneo professionals around the world. As chairwoman, I intend to focus on advising and growing Teneo’s clients, as well as continuing to build a world-class firm culture.”

President Barack Obama with Ursula Burns during a meeting in 2014/
Ursula Burns, pictured with President Barack Obama, became the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company as CEO of Xerox in 2009.
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Burns’ appointment comes a week after Teneo CEO and co-founder Kelly resigned from the high-flying firm after he showed up drunk at the celebrity-filled Global Citizen charity event, where he acted inappropriately with a number of women.

The charity removed Kelly from the board on May 3 and a Teneo client, General Motors, dropped the firm as an adviser in late June. Last week, Teneo named one of its co-founders, Paul Keary, as CEO.

Under Kelly, Teneo had amassed a powerful Rolodex of political and corporate contacts that were paid to help Teneo ink massive deals with some of the world’s biggest corporations, such as GM, Boeing, Coca-Cola, GE, Starbucks, and the London Stock Exchange.

Declan Kelly
Declan Kelly resigned as CEO of Teneo after his “embarrassing” behavior at a charity event last month.
Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images

The firm brought in and paid a network of highly influential special advisers to pitch Teneo to work as an advisory firm for their wealthy, powerful peers.

Teneo tapped special advisers like Dow Chemical’s Andrew Liveris, former House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, Coca-Cola’s Muhtar Kent, IBM’s Ginni Rometty and Burns, among others.

Burns, who is also a board member of Exxon Mobil and Uber Technologies, said she expects to continue working with Teneo clients and with Keary to fix Teneo’s culture after it has been rattled by the Kelly PR crisis.

Burns is known as an exec who is not afraid to shake things up. She became the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company when she was tapped as CEO of Xerox in 2009. The exec has been vocal about putting an emphasis on diversity on corporate boards and changing the culture of boardroom hiring. The exec left Xerox in 2016 and later served as CEO and chairwoman of telecommunications company Veon.

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