American Express Company Headquarters
Company headquarters are in New York City. The current CEO is Ken
Chenault, who took over in 2001. The company was led by Harvey
Golub from 1993 to 2001 and prior to that it was headed by James
D Robinson III from 1977 to 1993.
The company's common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange
under the ticker symbol AXP. It is one of the 30 stocks that comprise
the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
History of American Express -
From Travelers Checks to Credit Cards
American Express was founded in 1850 by Henry Wells, William Fargo,
and John Butterfield as an express business. In 1882, American
Express launched its money order business to compete with the
US Post Office's money orders. This product quickly spread to
Europe where no such financial product existed. Sometime between
1888 and 1890, J. C. Fargo took a trip to Europe and returned
frustrated and infuriated. Despite the fact that he was president
of American Express and that he carried with him traditional
letters of credit, he found it difficult to obtain cash anywhere
except in major cities. Mr. Fargo went to Marcellus Flemming
Berry and asked him to create a better solution than the traditional
letter of credit. Mr. Berry created the American Express Travelers
Cheque which was launched in 1891 in denominations of $10, $20,
$50, and $100.
The Travelers Cheque established American Express as a truly international
company and in 1915 they announced the establishment of a Travel
Department and soon established its first travel agencies.
During the winter of 1917 the US suffered a severe coal shortage
and on December 26th President Woodrow Wilson commandeered the
railroads on behalf of the US government to move US troops, their
supplies, and coal. Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo was
assigned the task of consolidating the railway lines for the war
effort. All contracts between express companies and railroads were
nullified and McAdoo proposed that all existing express companies
be consolidated into a single company to serve the country's needs.
This ended American Express's express business. The result was
a new company called the American Railway Express company formed
in July 1918. The new entity took custody of all the pooled equipment
and property of existing express companies (the largest share of
which, 40%, came from American Express who had owned 71,280 miles
of railroad lines, 10,000 offices, with over 30,000 employees).
American Express executives discussed the possibility of launching
a travel charge card as early as 1946, but it wasn't until Diners
Club launched their own card in March 1950 that American Express
began to seriously consider the possibility. At the end of 1957
American Express CEO Ralph Reed decided to get into the card business,
and by the launch date of October 1, 1958 public interest had become
so significant that they actually issued 250,000 cards prior to
the official launch date. The card was launched with an annual
fee of $6, $1 higher than Diners Club, to be seen as a premium
product. The first cards were paper, with the account number and
cardmember's name typed. It wasn't till 1959 that American Express
began issuing embossed ISO 7810 plastic cards, an industry first.
In 1966 American Express introduced the Gold Card and in 1984
the Platinum Card, clearly defining different market segments within
its own business, a practice that has proliferated across a broad
array of industries. The Platinum Card was billed as super-exclusive,
had a $300 annual fee. It was offered by invitation only to American
Express customers with at least 2 years of tenure, significant
spending, and excellent payment history.
In 1999 American Express introduced the Centurion
Card or "black
card" catering to an even more affluent and elite customer
segment. It charged a $1,000 annual fee, with a variety of exclusive
benefits. Also, in 1999 the company introduced a marketing triumph,
Blue from American Express, a popular card among the young and
techno-savvy with its multi-functional onboard chip.
It is rumoured that there is a card above the Centurion Card that
is offered to the world's rich and elite, but as yet has not been
During the 1980's American Express embarked on its dream to become
a financial services supercompany. In mid-1981 it purchased Shearson
Loeb Rhoades Inc the second largest securities firm in the US.
In 1984 it purchased the 100-year old IDS company, bringing with
it a fleet of financial advisors and investment products. Also
in 1984, American Express acquired the investment banking and trading
firm Lehman Brothers and added it to the Shearson family. When
Harvey Golub took the reins in 1993 he negotiated the sale of the
Shearson brokerage and in 1994 the sale of Lehman Brothers to part
with a troubled brokerage and asset management business.
In April 1986 American Express moved its headquarters to the American
Express Tower, the center of the World Financial Center in New
York City. The 51-story building was an architectural triumph and
noted as a significant and important addition to the city. After
the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, American Express had
to leave its headquarters temporarily as the building was damaged
during the attacks - it was located directly across the street
from the World Trade Center. The American Express tower became
the backdrop to efforts in rescue, recovery, and reconstruction
at Ground Zero. The company began gradually moving back into its
rehabilitated building in 2002.
American Express has its European Headquarters in Brighton UK.
In January 2004, American Express reached a deal to have its cards
issued by a U.S. bank, MBNA America. These cards were released
in October of 2004.
A second deal made at the end of 2004, will have American Express
cards issued by Citigroup by the end of 2005.