American Express President Edward Gilligan dies suddenly after falling ill on flight

30 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

American Express President Ed Gilligan dies.

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. She declined to say where Gilligan had been. “This is deeply painful and frankly unimaginable for all of us who had the great fortune to work with Ed,” American Express chief executive Ken Chenault said in a letter to employees Friday. In his time at the company, Gilligan worked on just about every area of American Express’s business, including commercial card, small business, merchant services, travel and, most recently, digital partnerships and payments. 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. Lew said that further delaying Europe’s six-month-old talks with Greece was “courting an accident” — such as a Greek default or messy exit from the euro, which could have unpredictable effects on global and European economies. 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. Lew said Friday at the end of meetings in Dresden, Germany, that “too much time has been spent unproductively and the challenge is to treat this week as a week in which there has to be progress.” Greece faces large debt repayments in June on its bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund.

Despite two bailouts totaling about $262 billion from the IMF and other countries that use the euro currency, Greece has not been able to repair its finances and economy enough to pay its bills. Subaru said it will expand its recall of 2004 and 2005 model Impreza compact cars with Takata air bags to about 80,000 from 20,000. ● Altera shares reached a four-year high after the New York Post reported that Intel is near a deal to buy the semiconductor maker for about $15 billion. The unexpected CEO succession crisis at American Express underscores the fact that “you can’t have all your eggs in one basket,” said Paul Winum, head of the board and CEO services practice at RHR International, a leadership development firm. “A good succession plan has to have multiple candidates.” Mr Gilligan started at AmEx in a temporary accounting position in 1980 while he was a student at New York University, where he received an undergraduate degree in economics and management.

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. Oil bulls were enthused by Friday’s rig count data from Baker Hughes, which showed U.S. drillers again reducing the number of rigs in operation this week despite speculation that they would add more.

U.S. crude ended at $60.30, up $2.62, or 4.5 percent, on the day, and up about 1 percent on both the week and month. ● Local and federal law enforcement officials launched an investigation Friday after five commercial airline pilots reported that green lasers were pointed at their planes as they flew over New York and New Jersey. The Federal Aviation Administration said four pilots reported a green laser illuminating their aircraft in flight about 8,000 feet over Long Island between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

It is a federal crime to point a laser at a plane. ● Dollar Tree said it has agreed to sell 330 of its stores to the private-equity firm Sycamore Partners to get regulatory approval for its $8.5 billion purchase of Family Dollar.

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