American Express company president Ed Gilligan has died suddenly aged only 55-years-old. The credit card company boss was reportedly taken seriously ill on an American Express corporate jet during his flight to New York after a short stay in Tokyo and passed away the same morning.
AmEx CEO Ken Chenault announced the news of Ed’s passing through a company wide message, describing how Gilligan had laid his roots with the company when he started as an intern 35-years ago and continued to dedicate his career to the company, rising through the ranks. The heartfelt note illustrated how deeply the loss of Ed would affect the globally-renowned corporation.
“This is deeply painful and frankly unimaginable for all of us who had the great fortune to work with Ed, and benefit from his insights, leadership and enthusiasm. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Lisa, and their four children – Katie, Meaghan, Kevin and Shane. He was a proud husband and father, and his love for his family was evident in all that he did.”
While no other details of Gilligan’s illness have been provided, it is evident how difficult the news of Ed’s passing has been for the American Express team.
Analysts report that Ed Gilligan had been a leading candidate in the pursuit of an heir to Chenault’s position as CEO at AmEx, with his work described as leaving “an indelible imprint on practically every area of our business.” Chenault had previously held the position of company president before moving up to CEO, a path Gilligan had evidently been set on himself.
Contrary to the image of large corporations, Gilligan had a track record of protecting and promoting small businesses using his position at AmEx. In 2010, American Express launched “Small Business Saturday,” pioneered by Gilligan. The annual event offered AmEx card holders additional credit on purchases made at small, local businesses, and quickly grew in popularity becoming a staple event during the Thanksgiving shopping period. Gilligan considered Small Business Saturday to be local business’ way to compete with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales held in such high regard and popularity across the country.
American Express had also recently set up several digital business partnerships with Gilligan, including one with Apple Pay rival Google Pay.
Previous employees of Ed Gilligan responded to American Express’ Twitter announcement of his passing. The responses of those that worked alongside him were deeply touching, as many reminisced on their time knowing him. Previous employees described Gilligan as a thoughtful and impressive leader, the likes of which the company would struggle to replace.
@AmericanExpress Devastating. Rarely have I enjoyed working for anyone as much as I enjoyed my years working for him in London.
— Kathy Castro (@kathycastro) May 29, 2015
[Image credit: Scott Eells via Getty Images]