Teneo hires ex-Xerox CEO Ursula Burns as chairwoman

Teneo has appointed Ursula Burns, former chief executive of Xerox, as chairwoman in the aftermath of former CEO Declan Kelly's resignation.

Ursula Burns speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in May 2018 (photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images for MIT Solve)
Ursula Burns speaking at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in May 2018 (photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images for MIT Solve)

The company said that in her role, Burns will work closely with Teneo CEO Paul Keary and members of the senior management team "to support Teneo’s next phase of growth around the world".

Former chief operating officer Keary was named CEO last week, following the resignation of Kelly, who stepped down after admitting he had behaved inappropriately at a charity event.

Burns has been a senior advisor at Teneo since 2017. She became the first black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company when she moved to the role at Xerox in 2009, staying there until 2016. Burns also spent time as chairwoman of the board of the Xerox Corporation.

Most recently, she was CEO and chairwoman of Veon Ltd, a global telecoms company.

Keary said: “We are very pleased to have Ursula taking on an expanded role with Teneo at this important time for the firm. Ursula is an exceptional leader with deep expertise and experience that will be extremely valuable to both our clients and our 1,250 professionals around the world.”

Burns said: “I am honored to be appointed as chairwoman of Teneo and look forward to working in close partnership with Paul and many members of the senior leadership team as the firm enters its next phase. I have worked for many years with Teneo both as a client at Xerox and Veon, as well as recently as a senior advisor. The firm’s people are among the best advisors in the world, providing a unique combination of services not available at other firms. 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.”

Pressure had mounted on Kelly to resign after one of Teneo's clients, General Motors, severed ties with the consultancy. He had already relinquished some of his responsibilities at the firm after admitting to acting inappropriately while drunk at a charity concert chaired by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The incident led Kelly to be removed from the board of anti-poverty charity Global Citizen, which hosted Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World on 2 May.

A spokesperson for Kelly told the Financial Times: “At a large cocktail party that evening attended by dozens of people including Global Citizen board members and guests, Mr Kelly became inebriated and behaved inappropriately towards some women and men at the event."

They said Kelly “deeply regrets his actions” at the concert, which featured performances by Foo Fighters and Jennifer Lopez, and has apologised to those affected. He is "committed to sobriety" and was "undertaking ongoing counseling from healthcare professionals", the spokesperson added.

Kelly co-founded Teneo 10 years ago with Doug Band and Keary. It has grown into one of the largest corporate comms consultancies with 30 offices globally.

PRWeek estimates the UK business generated revenue of £48m in 2020. The company announced a new UK leadership team last summer, and earlier this year acquired the restructuring services business of Deloitte UK.

Teneo sold a majority stake to UK-based CVC Capital Partners in 2019, as former majority owner BC Partners exited after four-and-a-half years.

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