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Former Amex CEO Kenneth Chenault Becomes Facebook’s First-Ever Black Board Member

Kenneth Chenault

Kenneth Chenault served 17 years as CEO of American Express. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Facebook has made good on its promise of recruiting an African-American board member, announcing former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault as its latest add to the board.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement Thursday, Jan. 18, saying he’d been trying to get a hold of Chenault for years.

“He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve — [like] customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Ken also has a strong sense of social mission [and] the perspective that comes from running an important public company for decades.”

“Welcome Ken, and I’m looking forward to working with you on our board!” he added.

Chenault walked away from the financial services company in October, having pocketed more than $370 million during his 17-year tenure. Not only was he Amex’s first Black CEO, but was one of the few African-American leaders of Fortune 500 companies. His transition to Facebook left the Fortune 500 with just three Black CEOs, Fortune reported.

Facebook and other Silicon Valley corporations have been criticized over the lack of Black and brown faces among its leadership. The social media giant faced pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus last year, prompting a promise from COO Cheryl Sandberg that Facebook would add a Black American to its board.

That day has finally arrived.

Before Chenault’s appointment, Facebook’s board of directors was overwhelming white. Just two board members, including Sandberg, are women.

“Adding someone to our board is one of the most important decisions our board makes,” Zuckerberg wrote. “It is a long process that I take very seriously since this is the group that ultimately governs Facebook.”

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