ATLANTA — First Data Corp. has made it official: Charles Fote, the company’s president and chief operating officer, will take the chief executive officer job next January, when Henry “Ric” Duques, the longtime chairman and CEO, retires.

Mr. Duques will remain chairman through 2002, and will continue as chairman of eONE Global, the payment technology company that First Data started last year with iFormation Group.

Mr. Fote, who has been with First Data and its predecessor companies since 1975, became the heir apparent in late 1998, when he was named to his current post. Over the years he had taken on positions of increasing responsibility in each of the company’s core businesses: card issuing services, merchant services, and Western Union/integrated payment systems.

Mr. Duques, who has focused recently on expanding the payment processor’s investments in e-commerce firms, has been chairman and CEO of First Data since it was spun off from American Express Co. in 1992.

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