Former American Express CEO Kenneth I. Chenault announced Friday that he was “stepping down” from the board of Facebook Inc. On the same day, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed the nomination of the world-renowned corporate leader to its board, making him the first African American ever to serve as a director of the conglomerate. Chenault will replace departing Berkshire Hathaway board member Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp. and billionaire philanthropist.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Chenault, a member of the Black Enterprise Registry of Corporate Directors who became the first African American to sit on the social media giant’s board, decided not to seek re-election to the body due to differences with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg related to “governance and political policies.”
The news came days after Facebook announced the appointment of The Estée Lauder Companies’ CFO Tracey Travis. She will join Peggy Alford, Senior Vice President of Core Markets for PayPal Holdings as the second African American female director to serve on its board. Alford became the first black woman appointed to the Facebook board last year. Chenault, who currently serves as Chairman and Managing Director of Silicon Valley-based VC firm General Catalyst, will continue his role as director until the company’s next annual meeting.
Chenault wrote in a post on Facebook’s Newsroom site: “Facebook plays an important role in the lives of people around the world. During the timeI served on the board, the company made progress in dealing with new challenges and continues its reach and to grow as a business…”
“I am stepping down from the board because I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work more closely with my friend Warren Buffett, the Berkshire Hathaway board and management team. I believe good corporate governing entails limiting the number of board commitments for any director.”
According to Reuters, Chenault gained his nomination to the board of Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that Buffett built, due to his emergence as a •standout and unanimous choice” after it governance committee reviewed 23 candidates to replace Gates, the world’s second wealthiest man with a net worth of more than $100 billion according to Forbes. Buffett, considered one of the world’s most astute investors, is the fourth wealthiest with a net worth of more than $76 billion.
Chenault is well-known by Buffett. American Express had been one of Berkshire Hathaway’s largest shareholders during Chenault’s 17-year tenure as CEO of the travel and financial services leviathan, from 2001 to 2018.