The surprise departure of American Express Co.'s highly regarded president could be a knock-on effect of succession planning elsewhere.

The credit card issuer and network said Monday that Alfred Kelly, a 22-year company veteran, will leave early next year to seek the top spot at another company. Kenneth Chenault, Amex's 58-year-old chairman and chief executive, plans to remain in his post for the foreseeable future, the company said, so Kelly would have to go elsewhere to fulfill his ambition of becoming a CEO.

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