NEW YORK – Kenneth Chenault is stepping down as the long-time CEO of the American Express Company next year. The company’s Board of Directors has appointed Stephen Squeri Chief Executive Officer and elected him Chairman of the Board, each effective February 1, 2018.
Chenault, 66, who will retire after a distinguished 37-year career with the Company.
Squeri has been Vice Chairman since 2015 and prior to that was Group President of American Express’ Global Corporate Services Group.
Chenault, one of four African-American CEOs in the Fortune 500, is 66 years old and has served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Express since 2001.
“We are completing a two-year turnaround ahead of plan with strong revenue and earnings growth across all of our business segments,” said Mr. Chenault. “We’ve added new products and benefits, acquired record numbers of new customers, expanded our merchant network and lowered operating costs. We’ve dealt effectively with competitive challenges and redesigned our marketing, customer service and risk management capabilities for the digital age.”
“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’ve accomplished,” Mr. Chenault continued. “Steve knows the industry. He knows the business and the brand. He knows the marketplace and how important the relationships we build with customers are to our success. He’s an excellent strategist and a strong leader.”
“It’s a privilege to lead one of the world’s most admired companies and I appreciate the expressions of confidence from the Board and our largest shareholder,” said Mr. Squeri. “Ken has been a terrific mentor. He leads by example and taught me, along with the rest of the organization, the importance of the personal connection millions of people around the world have with American Express.
Berkshire Hathaway, the investment conglomerate run by Warren Buffett, is American Express’ largest shareholder.
Buffett, chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said, “Ken’s been the gold standard for corporate leadership and the benchmark that I measure others against. 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 to long term. No one does a better job when it really counts and he’s always done it with the highest degree of integrity.”
“American Express is a very special company, one in which I first invested 53 years ago,” Mr. Buffett added. “Ken built on its storied history – not by abandoning traditional strengths, but by building on them and adding new ones. He’s been a great CEO and Berkshire Hathaway shareholders owe him a huge thank you.”
“I’ve spoken with Steve and have been hearing about him from Ken,” continued Mr. Buffett. “From everything I’ve heard, he’s absolutely the right person for the job. He knows the business, has a great track record and appreciates what makes American Express special. Ken and the board have picked someone who is going to build on a great legacy of service and success.”
American Express also released earnings report for the third quarter and had revenues of $8.43 billion, up 9% from a year ago. Net income was $1.35 billion, up 19%.