Airbnb adds American Express' Ken Chenault to its board as it moves toward an IPO

Key Points
  • Airbnb is adding Ken Chenault, outgoing American Express CEO, to its board.
  • Chenault will be Airbnb's first independent board member.
  • Airbnb says it will add a woman to its board later this year.
American Express chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault
Getty Images

Airbnb is adding Ken Chenault, outgoing CEO of American Express, to its board, said CEO Brian Chesky in an open letter.

"Airbnb is built on trust. As the CEO of American Express, Ken has built one of the most successful trust-based companies in the world," Chesky wrote.

Airbnb is preparing for an IPO. Chenault will be the first independent member on a board that currently has its co-founders — Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk and Joe Gebbia — sitting in three of five seats. Chenault, who has run American Express for 17 years, will step down in February.

Chenault also is the first African-American to join Airbnb's board. The board still doesn't include any women, but Airbnb told CNBC that it is in serious discussions with a number of other people about joining the board. "The next member will be a woman, and she'll be joining later this year," a spokesperson told CNBC.

Last week, Facebook announced Chenault's appointment to its board.

Chesky also said in the letter that Airbnb aims to be an "infinite company" that will "survive to see the next century, not just the next quarter."

Chesky said the company will release its first Annual Stakeholder Report in March, which will "explicitly identify the criteria by which we want to hold ourselves accountable to our stakeholders."

Co-founder and CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky speaks during an interview in Langa township, Cape Town, South Africa March 17, 2017.
Mike Hutchings | Reuters

While the company tells CNBC that it will include some information about its financial performance, it's unclear how much and which metrics. CNBC previously reported that the company is poised to notch its second year of profitability in 2018. Airbnb generated nearly $100 million in earnings before interest, taxes and amortization, a source told CNBC, and it grew its top line 150 percent in 2017.

According to CBInsights, Airbnb is the second-most-valuable start-up in the U.S., trailing only Uber. Last year, it raised an additional $1 billion, bringing its valuation to $30 billion.