Credit card giant American Express announced Wednesday that Kenneth Chenault, its CEO of 16 years, was passing on the torch to younger blood: 58-year-old Stephen Squeri.

Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express. (Commons Wikimedia, Public Domain)

“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 of Squeri, who was previously a vice chairman at the company, in a statement. “Steve knows the industry. He knows the business and the brand. He knows the marketplace and how important the relationships we build with customers are to our success. He’s an excellent strategist and a strong leader.”

Chenault’s retirement has been long in the making. The CEO has been with American Express since 1981, and became CEO in 2001. By 2015, he had already passed on oversight of the company’s operations to his protege, Vice President Edward Gilligan. But in May, Gilligan died suddenly of a blood clot — leaving Chenault at the reins at a time when the company’s stock had fallen to a four-year low around $52 after losing one of it’s biggest customers: Costco. Today, the stock is trading at $92 a share, just off its all-time high of $95.  More…