The retirement of Mr. Chenault, who has been with American Express for 37 years, will leave just three black executive at the CEO or Chairman level of a Fortune 500 company.
Mr. Chenault is the fourth black CEOs to have retired over the past few years. Ursula Burns left her post as head of Xerox last year when the company split in two, and Rodney O'Neal retired from his role as CEO and president of Delphi in 2015. Don Thompson retired as CEO of McDonald's in 2015, as well.
Mr. Chenault 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.”
Warren 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.”
Berkshire Hathaway is American Express’ largest shareholder.