Passed over for the top spot at copier manufacturer Xerox Corp., Addison Barry Rand quit, took a months-long vacation with his family and, in the end, wound up getting what he wanted anyway: a CEO job at a giant corporation.

This week, the 55-year-old D.C. native was named chairman and chief executive of Avis Rent a Car Inc., the nation's second-largest car-rental company. With its $5 billion acquisition of Cendant Corp.'s vehicle-leasing unit that will add about $1 billion in sales, the firm will likely join the Fortune 500.

Rand had briefly toyed with the idea of leading a much smaller company after waving goodbye to Xerox, where over 30 years he scaled the ranks to become second in command and one of the top black executives in the nation before he officially retired last January.

"But ultimately, I came back with what I started with," he said. "I like the complexities of a larger company."

Rand will certainly find them in Avis, a Garden City, N.Y., company that wants to do much more than rent cars. In June, Avis bought Cendant's PHH division, a giant fleet-management and maintenance company that Avis hopes will help it to expand its business.

Although selling copiers has little in common with renting automobiles, Avis officials may have wanted someone from outside of the insular car-rental industry, said Neil Abrams, president of Abrams Consulting Group Inc., a consulting firm for the rental industry.

"They were looking for new ideas and someone to hold the Avis brand up to a prism, seeing opportunities that may be hard to visualize when you're involved in the day-to-day fighting," Abrams said.

Avis officials say they believe Rand's experience at Xerox will help him tackle the challenges at their $2.3 billion car-rental company. As he was promoted again and again at Xerox, eventually becoming executive vice president of worldwide operations, Rand helped transform a copier company into a multinational corporation that provides a variety of document and computer services. He was paid more than $3.7 million in cash and stock in 1998.

"Any company of this size and magnitude needs to keep itself very flexible," said Stephen P. Holmes, vice chairman of Cendant and member of Avis's board of directors. "At Xerox, he became a very flexible executive who could make quick decisions to benefit his customers and shareholders."

In upcoming months, Rand also will be expected to pull up Avis's shares. The company's previous chief executive, Craig Hoenshell, had what many industry observers considered to be a successful tenure. But he left unexpectedly last December, and some consultants believe the company's slumping stock price was to blame. Avis's share price fell 25 cents yesterday to close at $18.81 1/4. That compares with a two-year high of $37.43 3/4 in February 1998.

Born on Nov. 5, 1944, in the District, Rand was the only child of parents with high expectations. His mother, now deceased, was an elementary-school principal. His father, who now lives with Rand and his family in Stamford, Conn., was a postal employee.

"My mother had her graduate degree, so it was sort of assumed that you were going to get an excellent education," Rand said. "It was assumed you were supposed to get good grades. It was assumed you would have strong family values and principles. . . . They gave me the motivation to go beyond boundaries and take on risks."

At Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, Rand was one of a handful of black students. But he said it did not matter. He was challenged by the school's discipline, academic focus and sports programs. (He played football and basketball in addition to running track.) And he was already accustomed to competing in a mostly white field.

"Starting from the fifth grade on through high school, I was never in a class that had more than one other black," he said. "By the time I had gotten to high school, it really was not an issue. I was used to achieving in both worlds."

While Rand is on the board of directors of corporations such as Honeywell Inc. and Abbott Laboratories, he remains attached to the Washington community. He has given funds to his high school and is on the board of the Urban Family Institute in the District. In honor of his mother, he set up a $1 million scholarship fund at Howard University for top-notch students who plan to teach in urban areas.

It wasn't high school or American University, where he received his bachelor's degree in marketing, that helped decide Rand's career path. Rather, he found his guidance in retail. To support himself through college, he took a series of sales jobs at local stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue. He soon realized he could sell anything to anyone.

"It came fairly naturally," Rand said.

The young sales associate raked in sales as he sold his customers the best in suits, shirts, ties and shoes. Shoppers sometimes refused to deal with anyone else.

"I suited them out," he said. "My position was that they had to trust my taste. I would say that when they went out, they would get compliments on what they were wearing."

In 1968, Rand took an entry-level sales position at Xerox, and within two years he was bringing in more revenue than any of the 1,000 sales associates in the Mid Atlantic region. As a salesman, he was especially skilled in selling the high-end copying products.

"I convinced them they had more value with the additional capabilities," Rand said.

But Rand found himself excluded from Xerox's "in" group at that time, when African American employees were few in numbers at the company and not welcomed into the corporate inner circle.

At one point early in his career at Xerox, Rand almost quit after a supervisor made racist comments, even insulting Rand's wife. But he outlasted the supervisor.

"Barry really did not focus on this particular manager, because he had a bigger objective to accomplish," said Carolyn McZinc, Xerox's director of corporate quality and knowledge sharing. "He knew that if he were to perform, he would be successful."

Among his former colleagues, Rand was known for his drive and focus. At times, he could be impatient and stubborn, McZinc said.

McZinc recalls trying to get Rand's help for a work video that would describe new initiatives to employees.

"He balked," said McZinc, who was working for Rand at the time. "He said, 'I'm not doing it. I'm not doing it.' "

In the end, Rand signed on and hammed it up, and the video was a hit with employees.

"We made him dress up like a rock star with sunglasses and music," she said. "He really got into it."

IN PROFILE: Addison Barry Rand

Age: 55

Born: Washington, D.C.

Education: Bachelor's degree in marketing, American University; master's in business administration and management services, Stanford University.

Work highlights: Joined Xerox in 1968 as a sales associate, becoming a corporate vice president in 1985 and executive vice president in 1992; named chief executive of Avis this week.

Other: Is a member of the boards of Abbott Laboratories, Honeywell and Urban Family Institute. Was inducted into the National Sales Hall of Fame in 1993.

Personal: He and his wife, Donna, have two children.