CEO turnover at record high

Marianne Wilson
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executives walking

Chief executives across industries are leaving their posts at record rates. 

From January through November 2018, 1,480 CEOs have left their posts, 12% higher than the year-ago period, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It is the highest January-November total since the firm began tracking in 2002, and only four fewer than the previous full-year high of 1,484 CEO exits tracked in 2008. In the retail industry, 55 CEOs have left their posts, up from 33 in the year-ago period. 

"Several factors are contributing to the high rate of CEO turnover,” said Andrew Challenger, VP of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “One is a strong economy and high demand for C-level skills are attracting CEOs to new positions. Another is the ongoing uncertainty surrounding trade and regulations while emerging technologies continue to disrupt almost every industry," 

Personal behavior is another factoring into CEO turnover. 

"We are also tracking companies that are demanding accountability in their CEOs' professional and personal lives,” Challenger added. “Any behavior unbecoming to a company's brand is pretty quickly followed by a resignation announcement.”

Challenger tracks CEO changes at companies that have been in business for at least two years, with a minimum of ten employees. 

Companies appear to be keeping their institutional knowledge intact, at least for a limited amount of time. The majority of CEOs (527) stepped down into other roles within their companies, typically to assist in the transition as a consultant, into another C-level position, or into a board member or chairperson role. 

Another 355 retired, while 138 found new positions in other companies. An additional 127 CEOs resigned, while 109 left with no official reason given. Thirty-six CEOs left amid a merger or acquisition, and 22 were terminated, meaning the board terminated their employment.