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Facebook has added American Express CEO Ken Chenault to its board

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims he’s been “trying to recruit Ken for years.”

American Express CEO Ken Chenault
Lacy O'Toole / CNBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Facebook has added a new member to its board of directors: Ken Chenault, the CEO of American Express, who is set to retire from his post at AmEx in February.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the new appointment Thursday in a Facebook post, claiming he’s been “trying to recruit Ken for years.”

“He has unique expertise in areas I believe Facebook needs to learn and improve — customer service, direct commerce, and building a trusted brand,” Zuckerberg added. Facebook has not done much direct commerce historically, but now sells virtual reality headsets through Oculus, and is planning to push into other home electronics, like a video chat device.

Two things to think about:

  • Zuckerberg still has majority voting power for all of Facebook’s decisions, which means anyone on the board is just an advisor at this point.
  • Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is still on Facebook’s board, though Facebook’s push into original video content could create a potential conflict of interest situation. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently announced that she was Disney’s board of directors for that same reason. Facebook renews all board member appointments each year at its annual shareholder meeting in the spring.

Chenault is the first new Facebook board member since WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum joined in 2014 after Facebook bought his messaging startup. He’s also Facebook’s first non-white board member, worth noting as Silicon Valley — and Facebook in particular — is pushing hard to diversify the tech workforce.

Chenault also serves on the Boards of IBM and Procter & Gamble.

Update: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who had previously urged Facebook executives to diversify their board last fall, were happy to hear that Chenault was joining the company’s board. “I am pleased to hear that Facebook has not only acknowledged the lack of diversity within its company but they listened to our concerns and chose a new direction for the future,” said Emanuel Cleaver II, a Democratic congressman from Missouri, in a statement sent to Recode.

I'm excited to announce that Kenneth Chenault, the outgoing CEO of American Express, has agreed to join Facebook's Board...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, January 18, 2018

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