American Express president dies after falling ill on flight

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

American Express president Edward Gilligan dies on plane.

The president of American Express, who was viewed as a likely successor to Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault, collapsed and died on the way home from a business trip. Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and the cause of death is undetermined, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing a personal issue. “This is deeply painful and frankly unimaginable for all of us who had the great fortune to work with Ed, and benefit from his insights, leadership and enthusiasm,” Chenault said in a letter to the company’s employees. “His contributions have left an indelible imprint on practically every area of our business.” Gilligan began working as an intern at the firm 35 years ago while a student at New York University, and later spent time in London as a group president overseeing the firm’s international consumer business, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was named vice chairman in 2007 and president in 2013, and oversaw digital initiatives, including a partnership reached last year with car-service firm Uber Technologies Inc. “He devoted his entire career to this company,” Chenault wrote. “He was a proud husband and father, and his love for his family was evident in all that he did.” Gilligan’s Twitter profile described him as working at the New York-based credit-card issuer and “dreaming of Chelsea football and a good glass of wine, hoping to make a positive impact.” His last tweet, on May 16, referred to a comment about David Letterman’s final show. “He always liked to be out with clients,” said Gordon Smith, CEO of consumer and community banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co., who worked with Gilligan at AmEx for more than two decades. “He knew everyone, took time to learn people’s names, he knew about their families.” Gilligan was widely considered a leading candidate to eventually succeed Chenault, according to analysts including Portales Partners’ William Ryan. The company recently announced that it would end a 16-year relationship with Costco Wholesale in which its plastic was the only credit card accepted at the warehouse club.

AmEx also lost an antitrust lawsuit that was filed by the Justice Department. “In our view, his name was at the top of any succession planning and his absence obviously hurts,” wrote Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, in a note to clients. American Express faces an unusual conundrum as boards typically plan ahead for the sudden demise of their leader, rather than the heir apparent, one succession specialist said.

Directors likely will quickly identify other potential Chenault successors and try “to put them on an accelerated development path,” predicted Jeffrey Cohn, who advises on CEO succession. “The problem is there is no such thing as accelerated development” for a CEO role, he said. “It takes time.” Mr Chenault, CEO since 2001, hasn’t given any indication that he plans to step down. He also worked for the company in London, where he led its international consumer-card business. “Ed was a terrific friend who I’ve always held in the highest regard.

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