Kenneth I. Chenault

Born: June 2, 1951, New York, New York; Company: General Catalyst Partners; Position: Chairman, managing director; Industry: Venture capital; Country: United States

Kenneth I. Chenault is sole chairman and general partner, of the venture capital firm General Catalyst.

He is the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, American Express Company (April 2001 to January 2018), a $24 billion financial services company. He was the third African-American to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

On October 18, 2017, Mr. Chenault announced he will be stepping down as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Express at the end of January 2018  after spending 37 years at the company. He is the fourth black CEOs to have retired over the last three years. Ursula Burns left her post as head of Xerox in 2016 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. Stan O'Neal's retired from the top spot at Merrill Lynch & Co. and Time Warner Inc., Dick Parsons retired at the end of 2007.

On January 18, 2018, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, announced Mr. Chenault would be joining Facebook’s board of directors. This was quickly followed on Jan 25, 2018, by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, announcement that Mr. Chenault would be appointed to the Airbnb board.

Mr. Chenault joined the American Express Company in September 1981 as Director of Strategic Planning. He was named President of the Consumer Card Group in 1989, and in 1993 he became President of Travel Related Services (TRS), which encompassed all of American Express’ card and travel businesses in the United States. In 1995, he assumed additional responsibility for the company’s worldwide card and travel businesses and also was named Vice Chairman of American Express. Mr. Chenault became President and Chief Operating Officer in February 1997. He assumed his current responsibilities as CEO on January 1, 2001, and as Chairman on April 23 of that year.

Under his leadership, American Express:

  • Built one of the world’s largest customer loyalty programs – Membership Rewards.
  • Evolved from a travel & entertainment oriented business to one that accommodates the everyday spending of nearly 100 million Card Members.
  • Expanded its global reach through a network of bank partners who issue cards on the American Express network.
  • Transformed its marketing, service and risk management capabilities for the digital age.
  • Formed ground-breaking partnerships with leading technology companies.
  • Introduced innovative products and earned global recognition as a leader in customer service.
  • Has been ranked as a leading employer in markets around the world.
  • Is continuously recognized as one of Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies and a leader in corporate social responsibility.

Before he came to American Express, Mr. Chenault was a management consultant with Bain & Co. from 1979 to 1981, and an attorney with Rogers & Wells from 1977 to 1979.

Mr. Chenault serves or has served on the boards of American Express and several other corporate and nonprofit organizations, including Facebook, Airbnb, IBM, The Procter & Gamble Company, the Harvard Corporation, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, the National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University, the Smithsonian Institution’s Advisory Council for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center, and the Bloomberg Family Foundation. He also is a member of the Business Council and serves on the Executive Committee of the Business Roundtable as well as the Partnership for New York.

Mr. Chenault is recognized as one of the business world’s experts on brands and brand management and has been honored by multiple publications including Fortune Magazine, which named him as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in its inaugural list. 

A wide variety of civic, social service and community organizations have recognized Mr. Chenault for his public service leadership. He has received the Phoenix House Public Service Award, the Corporate Responsibility Award from the International Rescue Committee, the Wall Street Rising Leadership Award, and the Hadrian Award from the World Monuments Fund, among others. In addition, he is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Mr. Chenault holds a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA in history from Bowdoin College, and has received honorary degrees from several universities.


Latest Profiles

  • Richelieu Dennis

    Richelieu Dennis

    Born: Liberia; Position: Founder, CEO; Company: Sundial Brands; Industry: Personal Care; Country: United States

  • Steve Stoute

    Steve Stoute

    Born: June 26, 1970, Queens, New York City, New York; Position: Founder, CEO; Company: Translation LLC. ; Industry: Marketing and Advertising; Country: United States

  • William James Adams

    will.i.am

    Born: March 15, 1975, Eastside, Los Angeles County, California, USA; Position: CEO & co-founder; Company: i.am+ ; Industry: Information Technology and Services; Country: United States

Latest Articles

  • Kenneth I. Chenault to join General Catalyst

    Kenneth I. Chenault

    Ken Chenault to join General Catalyst as chairman and a managing director, making him one of the most powerful venture capitalists. Mr. Chenault spent the last 17 years as Chairman and CEO of American Express and was recently...

  • Kenneth I. Chenault to Join Airbnb's Board

    Kenneth I. Chenault

    Former American Express CEO, Kenneth I. Chenault will be joining the board of directors of Airbnb. The announcement comes one week after Facebook appointed Chenault to its board of directors. Mr. Chenault will be the first and...

  • Ken Chenault to Join Facebook Board of Directors

    Ken Chenault

    Ken Chenault, the outgoing CEO of American Express, is joining Facebook’s board of directors. The technology industry has come under fire in recent year because of their lack diversity. Mr. Chenault joining Facebook’s board is...

  • Richelieu Dennis' Sundial Brands to be Acquire by Unilever

    Richelieu Dennis' Sundial Brands is being acquired by Unilever, a British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company co-headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands and London, United Kingdom. Its products include Dove soap and Ben...

  • Richard Parsons, Former Time Warner CEO Launch New VC Firm

    Richard Parsons

    Richard D. Parsons, senior advisor to Providence Equity Partners, former chairman of Citigroup, and the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner and business partner Rachel Lam who founded the Time Warner Investments group...