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Sun, 06.03.1951

Kenneth Chenault, Businessman born

Kenneth I. Chenault

*Kenneth Chenault was born on this date in 1951. He is a Black lawyer and businessman.

Born in Long Island, New York, Kenneth Irvine Chenault received his Bachelor's degree in history from Bowdoin College in 1973 and his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1976. Chenault spent 20 years at American Express before becoming the company's CEO and held various senior posts, including a four-year stint as chief operating officer. Chenault joined the company in 1981 as its director of strategic planning. In 1989, he was named president of the American Express Consumer Card Group. He oversaw increased sales in the struggling merchandise services and increased circulation in the company's charge card divisions.

In 1993, he was named president of American Express Travel Related Services. Two years later, he became vice-chairman of the entire company, and in 1997, he was named president and COO. Before joining American Express, Chenault served as a management consultant for Bain & Co. and was an associate with the law firm of Rogers & Wells. In addition to American Express, he sits on the boards of several companies and nonprofit organizations.

As Chairman and CEO of American Express Company, Kenneth Chenault is one of Wall Street's most powerful and influential people. This veteran executive ascended to the top position by working hard and having a clear vision of what would make the $20 billion charge card company profitable. He was the top choice of his predecessor, CEO Harvey Golub, to continue shaping the company's future.

Chenault is one of only three African American CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. He is quiet and warm but a tough-minded risk-taker who demands results. He has often been the target of protest against the middle and lower class neglect from the 1% of capitalists.  Chenault had to lay off thousands of employees before and after September 11, when the devastating attack on the World Trade Center damaged American Express's headquarters.  But Chenault's strength and leadership during a weakening economy helped stabilize American Express. Chenault is married; he and his wife, Kathryn, have two sons, Kenneth Jr. and Kevin.

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