6:09 AM / Thursday December 1, 2022

30 Nov 2017

American Express’s Chenault to retire

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
November 30, 2017 Category: Stateside Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Kenneth I. Chenault


He kept the company together after the 9/11 terrorist attack


By Frederick H. Lowe

American Express announced that Kenneth I. Chenault, chairman and CEO of the New York-based credit and charge card issuer, and one of the nation’s few top Black executives, will retire February 1, 2018 after a challenging tenure that began in the very early days of his career in the company’s corner office.

Chenault’s first year in office was 2001, a difficult time for him, his senior management and the company because in September of that year, two passenger jets crashed into New York’s World Trade Center complex, where American Express is headquartered, instituting a new reality for the nation’s security and the business world that relied on the security. Some analysts believed that American Express was doomed, but under Chenault, the company survived and later thrived.

The business recently reported a third-quarter net income of $1.4 billion on revenues of $8.4 billion.“We’re starting a new chapter from a position of strength and this is the right time to make the leadership transition to someone who’s played a central role in all that we have accomplished,” said Chenault, who will be succeeded by Stephen J. Squeri, who board members on Wednesday elected CEO and board chairman.

Squeri has been American Express’s vice chairman and since 2015. Prior to that, he was Group President of the company’s Global Corporate Services Group. Chenault earned a law degree from Harvard and an undergraduate degree in history from Bowdoin College. But what he faced during the first year of his tenure as CEO wasn’t a case study he could refer to in text books at the time. On September 11, 2001, shortly after Chenault took over, two jets hijacked by Islamic militants crashed into New York’s World Trade Center, heavily damaging American Express’s world headquarters and killing 11 employees.

Kenneth I. Chenault

Chenault guided American Express after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that damaged American Express’s headquarters and killed employees. A plane can be seen flying toward a second tower. Chenault was working in Salt Lake City. He ordered his senior management to meet in his New York City apartment to determine a plan going forward.

“Spending on the travel business was in disarray and spending was dropping. Many people were writing us off. Still, the company had to lay off 15,000 workers. It tested us at the highest levels,” Chenault said.Since American Express could not use its headquarters building, the company’s employees were dispersed to three separate locations in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. All the employees met in Madison Square Garden where Chenault spoke to them.“I told my management team that it was our job to lead this organization,” Chenault said during a 2016 interview.Warren Buffet, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, American Express’s largest shareholder, praised Chenault’s tenure.

“He led the company through 9/11, the financial crisis and the challenges of the last couple of years. American Express always came out stronger. Ken never went for easy short-term answers, never let day-to-day challenges distract him from what was right for the moderate and long term.”

Chenault, 66,  joined American Express in September 1981 as Director of Strategic Planning. In 1989, he was named president of the Consumer Card Group and 1993 he became president of Travel Related Services, which included all of Amex’s worldwide card and travel business in the United States. He was named president and chief operating office in February 1997.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Leave a Comment

Recent News


Message from Catherine Hicks Philadelphia Branch NAACP President and Publisher of the SUN on passing of former PA Senator T. Milton Street

November 29, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email The Philadelphia Branch NAACP and the Philadelphia SUN family, is saddened to hear...


Senate runoff: Obama heading to Georgia

December 1, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email By BILL BARROW and JEFF AMY ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia voters have cast...

Week In Review

Biden admin to ask high court to take up student debt plan

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: Light illuminates part of the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill...


Georgia runoff: Why one Senate seat is crucial for Democrats

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: This combination of photos shows, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaking to...


How to shop for the right Medicare plan and avoid costly mistakes

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT Inflation is putting the squeeze on all Americans, but no one is...

Color Of Money

Top financial to-dos to end the year strong and prepare for 2023

November 24, 2022

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT  The holidays are a time full of good cheer, but not necessarily...

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff