NEW YORK — Amid a swirl of corporate intrigue fueled by strong personalities and weak financial performance, American Express Co. said Monday that its president, Harvey Golub, will succeed James D. Robinson III as chief executive but that Robinson will stay on as chairman.
Also, in a surprising development, Robinson will take charge of the company's Shearson Lehman Bros. unit, the company said.
The decision to promote Golub--a blunt-spoken native of Brooklyn--represented a victory for Robinson, 57, who had championed the 53-year-old executive for the post and resisted attempts by dissident directors to hire an outsider.
"Jim Robinson's position at Amex was obviously a lot more solid than many people had thought," said Michael A. Flanagan, an analyst with Lipper Analytical Services Inc.
American Express has suffered numerous embarrassments and setbacks during Robinson's 15-year reign as chairman. Board dissidents, led by former Mobil Corp. Chairman Rawleigh Warner Jr., set out to oust him last September.
Observers interpreted Robinson's assumption of the posts of chairman and chief executive of the struggling Shearson brokerage as a slap to the incumbent, Howard L. Clark Jr., and his father, former Amex Chairman Howard L. Clark Sr., a leader of the anti-Golub forces though he no longer is on the board.
Clark Jr., who couldn't be reached for comment, was demoted to vice chairman of Shearson.
Wall Street apparently was anticipating a different outcome to the corporate drama. The company's stock fell 50 cents to close at $25.125 a share Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.
"It looked like the stock market didn't like it," one trader told the Reuters news service. "There was a feeling they were going to have a change in management."
After the market closed, American Express announced that earnings plunged to $82 million, or 15 cents a share, in the fourth quarter of 1992 from $237 million, or 47 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue was little changed at $6.7 billion.
The drop in income was largely due to charges of $166 million taken by Shearson.
For the year, American Express earnings fell 42% to $461 million, or 88 cents a share, from $789 million, or $1.59, in 1991. Revenue grew to nearly $27 billion from $25.9 billion.
In a show of unity after months of public turmoil over the succession question, directors uniformly praised Golub on Monday.
"Harvey Golub was the unanimous and enthusiastic choice, individually and collectively, of our search committee and the full board," said board member Richard Furlaud, a former president of Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co., who was on the five-member search panel.
Golub is widely credited with helping to revitalize American Express' flagship unit, Travel Related Services. He will stay on as chairman and chief executive of the subsidiary, whose operations include American Express charge cards and travelers checks.
American Express said Robinson and Golub would continue to work together in an office of the chief executive, formerly known as the office of the chairman.
Robinson said his goal as head of Shearson is for the company to be able to sustain a single-A credit rating on a stand-alone basis.
Bio: Harvey Golub
Born: April 16, 1939
Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Education: Dropped out of Cornell University in 1958. Received BS degree from New York University in 1961.
Career Highlights: Joined American Express in 1984 as president and chief executive of IDS Financial Services. Elected vice chairman in 1990. Before joining IDS, Golub was a senior partner at McKinsey & Co. He was president of Shulman Air Freight from 1974 to 1977 and a junior partner at McKinsey from 1967 to 1974. He also worked as a systems engineer at IBM and head of data processing for Railway Express Agency.
Family: With Roberta Golub, he is father of son Josh, 8. He is the father of three adult children by a previous marriage.
Quote: "I am delighted that I will be able to continue working with Jim (Robinson, Amex's outgoing chief executive officer). He is a marvelous partner."