The Crusader Newspaper Group

African American CEOs in corporate America are on the verge of extinction

By Selena Hill,

Kenneth I. Chenault recently announced that he is retiring from American Express in February 2018 after serving as the company’s chief executive for the past 16 years. His departure reduces the ranks of Black CEOs leading the largest publicly traded corporations, including Kenneth Frazier of Merck & Co.; Roger Ferguson of TIAA; Arnold Donald of Carnival Corp.; and Marvin Ellison of JCPenney.

When BLACK ENTERPRISE released its list of the 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America in 2012, there were eight Black CEOs of major publicly traded corporations. Over the last several years, there have been significant departures such as Ursula Burns stepping down from the helm of Xerox after the company completed its restructuring earlier this year. Burns was the first African American woman to be appointed as CEO of one of the nation’s 500 largest corporations.

Ronald C. Parker, the president and CEO of The Executive Leadership Council (ELC), which champions the development of black executives around the world, says Chenault’s retirement is bittersweet. “While we are excited about his success, we are also alarmed and disappointed that we have lost another iconic leader of a Fortune 500 company who is a black CEO,” he told BLACK ENTERPRISE.


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