Airbnb Names Amex’s Chenault To Board

As part of its plan to become a so-called 21st-century company, Airbnb announced Thursday (Jan. 25) in a blog post that it is naming Ken Chenault, chief executive officer of American Express, to its board of directors.

In an open letter, Airbnb chief executive officer Brian Chesky explained that the company is built on trust. Chenault has built “one of the most successful trust-based companies in the world” at American Express, Chesky said, a company that has “endured” and “innovated” for close to 168 years.  

“Ken and I spent time talking about the 21st-century model and in particular the role of trust as the infrastructure for such a model,” he wrote. “Ken also believes deeply that now, more than ever, companies need to stand for values, character and competence.”

According to a report in TechCrunch, Chenault is the first independent board member at Airbnb and is the first black board member. With Airbnb’s new company focus, it could be eyeing an initial public offering (IPO). According to Chesky, the company will announce its plans to “to empower a host-led world with some substantial improvements to our service that set us up for an infinite time horizon” on Feb. 22.

The executive went on to say that Airbnb is focusing on surviving to see the next century, not just the next-three month period, and that the goal of a 21st-century company should be to become a 22nd-century company.

By having an infinite time horizon, a company can be more audacious, take more responsibility for what they make, and create more lasting change,” Chesky said in the post.

In a recent effort to improve its platform this month, Airbnb announced its Pay Less Up Front option, giving guests the option to pay for just a portion of the trip at the time of booking — usually a 50 percent deposit. Airbnb guests previously had to pay for 100 percent of the trip at the time of booking. They can then pay the remainder closer to their check-in date.