It was September 2019, and seated around a table at the Manhattan home of ViacomCBS Inc. board member Charles Phillips was a small group of Black executives who had made it to the top of corporate America. McGuire, then vice chairman of Citigroup Inc., said he was thinking of joining the race to become New York’s next mayor.
Phillips uncorked a 2010 Napa Valley Reserve cabernet. Bankers Bill Lewis and Fred Terrell raised a glass. Ken Chenault, who ran American Express Co. for nearly two decades, offered a word of caution. He told McGuire his lack of name recognition would be a problem, and not his biggest one. “You’re from Wall Street,” Chenault said, taking on the voice of a skeptical voter. “What has this guy done for us?”
McGuire, raised by a single mother in Dayton, Ohio, before getting three Harvard degrees, pushed back. “This is what I dealt with, and you’re going to tell me that I’ve forgotten that? I haven’t forgotten that,” he said. “I shouldn’t be penalized for my success.”
“I get it,” Chenault recalls saying. “It’s still going to be a big challenge.”
Photographed for Bloomberg, with words by Max Abelson, Jennifer Surane, and Fola Akinnibi.
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