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.
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.