McDonald’s wasn’t loving it last year. Their 2014 fourth quarter sales fell 7 percent and overall profits have been down 21 percent. And with the departure of McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson in March, there are only a handful of Black CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies.
According to the Census Bureau, 13.2 percent of the U.S. population is African-American, yet only a few can call themselves leaders in their fields. Following is an overview of some of corporate America’s most successful CEOs.
Ursula Burns started her career at Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern. From 1992 through 2000, Burns led many business teams and soon assumed the senior vice president of Corporate Strategic Services position. In 2009 she was named CEO and continues in this role today. She is known as the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company.
Chenault was named CEO of American Express in 2001, becoming one of the first African-Americans to hold this position in a Fortune 500 company. He joined the company in 1981 when he took a position in the languishing merchandizing department. In 1997, he was named president and chief operating officer. In 2012 he was named businessperson of the year.
In 2013, Arnold Donald was named CEO of Carnival Corporations, a company that produces about $15.8 billion annually. Previously Donald served on the company’s board for the past 12 years. His most recent executive positions include being CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, a professional network and leadership forum for African-American executives. He said one reason he accepted the position had to do with the mission of the Executive Leadership Council.
Kenneth Frazier serves as chief executive officer and a member of the board of directors of Merck & Co. Inc. He’s been called the first African-American CEO of a pharmaceutical company. He has held other positions including vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Astra Merck Group. Frazier received his bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
After a 30-year-career in executive positions at Yum! Brands Inc., and Sears Holdings Corp., in 2008 Lewis took the role of chief executive officer of Potbelly Sandwich Works and has helped the brand achieve significant growth. Lewis earned dual bachelor’s degrees in business management and English literature from the University of Houston, as well as an M.B.A.
10 brands you thought were Black owned, but aren’t
- Black Entertainment Television (BET)
- Def Jam Records
- Essence Magazine
- The George Foreman Grill
- Church’s Chicken
- Popeye’s Chicken
- SoftSheen Carson/Dark N’ Lovely
- Carol’s Daughter hair products