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There Will Only Be 3 Black Fortune 500 CEOs When Kenneth Chenault Leaves American Express

By Bruce C.T. Wright

The list of Fortune 500 CEOs has never been more diverse, but it was set to take a major hit in one key demographic after American Express Co. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault announced on Wednesday his plans to leave his position early next year. By departing American Express, Chenault will leave behind just three Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

By the time his February 1, 2018, departure date rolls around, Chenault will have led American Express for 16 years.

Amex Announces Stephen J. Squeri to Succeed Kenneth I. Chenault as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer  

“We’re starting a new chapter from a position of strength and this is the right time to make the leadership transition to someone who’s played a central role in all that we’ve accomplished,” Chenault said in a brief statement on Wednesday.

Consistently ranked as one of the top CEOs in America, an increasingly tough feat considering that 70 percent of senior executives in America are White men, according to Fortune. In fact, if the trend keeps up, which is all but promised, not even 1 percent of Fortune 500 companies will have a Black leader.

There have been a couple of recent resignations of Black CEOs, which decimated the already thin ranks of Black chief executives: Ursula Burns left her CEO perch at Xerox earlier this year and Roger W. Ferguson Jr. led Delphi for eight years before stepping down in 2015.

Below is a look at the last of a dying breed — the country’s remaining Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Arnold W. Donald, Carnival Corporation & plc

Carnival’s president and chief executive officer has led the tourism company since 2013. But his future at the company was unclear after he reportedly sold nearly 91,000 shares of Carnival stock on Monday.

 Keynote reminder! @CarnivalPLC President and CEO Arnold W. Donald will be at the Venetian Level 5, Palazzo Ballroom at 8:30am!

Kenneth Frazier, Merck

Frazier ascended Merck’s corporate ladder after beginning as general counsel in 1992. Nearly 20 years later, he was named CEO in January 2011, becoming the first Black chief executive of a pharmaceutical company. He made headlines this summer when he famously quit Donald Trump’s American manufacturing Council over the president’s response to a racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Roger Ferguson, TIAA

Ferguson has led the financial services organization since 2008. He recently predicted he would retire “at some point many years from now,” according to Bloomberg.

TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson: Communities of Color Must Focus on Retirement Security 

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