Ken Chenault of American Express, country's most prominent black CEO, to retire

Kenneth Chenault, one of the most prominent black businessmen and long-time chairman and CEO of American Express, is retiring next year.

Chenault, who is 66, took over as CEO of American Express (AXP) in 2001 and guided the company through several seismic events, including the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The company's headquarters in Manhattan is next door to the site of the World Trade Center.

He also led the company through the financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession of 2008. While American Express did not hold any mortgages, its direct exposure to the U.S. consumer put significant pressure on its business model.

The announcement comes at the same time as American Express announced its third-quarter results, a profit of $1.36 billion, or $1.50 a share, which beat analysts' expectations. The credit card issuer and global payments company posted revenue of $8.44 billion in the period, which also topped Street forecasts.

American Express shares have climbed 24 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased 14 percent. In the final minutes of trading on Wednesday, shares hit $92.08, a rise of 53 percent in the last 12 months.