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Photo: Michael Cohen / Getty Images for The New York Times

Ken Chenault, 66, is days away from stepping down after 17 years as chairman and CEO American Express. He guided the company through 9/11 (the HQ, across the street from the World Trade Center, was left unusable), the global financial crisis, and numerous challenges to AmEx as the go-to payment option for the wealthy and well-traveled, AP's Ken Sweet writes.

Why he matters: "When Chenault became CEO, he was only the third black CEO of a Fortune 500 company ever. And for several years after his appointment, other black men and women were hired as CEOs, at companies such as McDonald's, Xerox and Merrill Lynch."

  • "The son of a dentist from Long Island, New York, who grew up as a black man during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Chenault never expected to be CEO of a major company, let alone work 37 years at the same one."
  • "But that trend has reversed. With Chenault retiring, there will be only three black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies: [pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.], financial company TIAA and retail chain JCPenney."
  • Chenault: "It's embarrassing. ... You need a pipeline of people coming in. You need to create an environment where people are embraced and engaged rather than just tolerated."
  • What's next: "He will be joining the corporate boards of Facebook and Airbnb."

Editors note: AP incorrectly identified Pfzier as being one of three Fortune 500 companies with a black CEO, while excluding Merck & Co., who's CEO Kenneth Frazier is African American. We have updated this story to reflect the changes.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Facebook exec warns of "more bad headlines"

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In a post to staffers Saturday obtained by Axios, Facebook VP of global affairs Nick Clegg warned the company that worse coverage could be on the way: “We need to steel ourselves for more bad headlines in the coming days, I’m afraid.”

Catch up quick: Roughly two dozen news outlets had agreed to hold stories based on leaked materials from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen for Monday publication — but the embargo fell apart Friday night as participating newsrooms posted a batch of articles ahead of the weekend.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.