Saying that it needed a "steady hand" during turbulent times, PriceWaterhouseCoopers announced that it has appointed Samuel DiPiazza Jr. as its global CEO.

The 51-year-old DiPiazza previously served as the U.S. division's chairman and senior partner. He will assume his new post Jan. 2.

DiPiazza will replace James Schiro, who had filled the senior position since July of 1998 and oversaw the merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand. Schiro announced in July of this year that he would step down as CEO.

Officials at the giant consulting and accounting firm, which operates in about 150 countries, said an unprecedented level of global and economic instability makes the selection of new leadership particularly critical.

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