Barron's Profile: Ken Chenault ’73 'Faces Reality but Gives Hope'

Story posted February 14, 2012

Barron’s profiles Ken Chenault '73, in its latest CEO Spotlight, praising the chief executive of American Express for leading the company “with a sure hand through some of the most horrific episodes in recent American history,” including the 9-11 attacks and the credit crisis of 2008-’09.

Ken Chenault128.jpg
Ken Chenault '73

Throughout this turbulent decade, the company has maintained stability and profitability. AmEx earned $4.9 billion, or $4.12 a share last year, on revenue of $30 billion. “Under Chenault's leadership, American Express shares have returned 26.8%, dividends included, endowing the company with a current market value of $61 billion,” according to the article.

Barron’s characterizes Chenault as “elegant and polished, yet down to earth. … [He] counsels other executives to ‘stand for something’ and be clear about their values.” He also pushes them to change. He tells the magazine, "One of the lessons I often talk about, both inside and outside the company, is that you can become very complacent with success, and success can become a rut.”

After Chenault graduated from Bowdoin magna cum laude with honors in history, he attended Harvard Law School. Chenault says he is also a big believer in constructive confrontation, which he encourages in meetings. “Borrowing a famous phrase from Napoleon, he says the role of a leader is ‘to face reality but give hope,’" the magazine states.

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