Case | HBS Case Collection | April 1994 (Revised August 1996)

American Express (A)

by Jay W. Lorsch

Abstract

In January 1993, the American Express board met to decide who would succeed James D. Robinson, III as chairman and CEO. The board needed to act in the spotlight of intense media and investor scrutiny, and after leaks had revealed that there was a conflict among the board members about whether Robinson should have been asked to leave. The board needed to find a way of calming the public's concern over the future of American Express, at the same time choosing a leadership structure that would lead American Express for the foreseeable future. The case brings up several critical issues revolving around CEO succession and performance evaluation: What should the board take into account when deciding when to ask a CEO to step down? What kinds of processes can boards institute so that such battles over CEO succession will not ensue?

Keywords: Decision Making; Corporate Governance; Resignation and Termination; Leadership; Management Succession; Performance Evaluation;

Citation:

Lorsch, Jay W. "American Express (A)." Harvard Business School Case 494-093, April 1994. (Revised August 1996.)