CEO Turnover Soars in First Quarter

By Aliah D. Wright Apr 11, 2014
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​Global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., reports that chief executive officers (CEOs) left their posts in droves during the first quarter of 2014—the highest quarterly total since the third quarter of 2008.

Turnover rose 9.8 percent in March when 123 CEOs left their jobs during the month, bringing the first-quarter total to 366, the most in a single quarter since 408 top executives left during the first quarter in 2008.

The total for the quarter was 18.4 percent higher than during the same period in 2013, when 309 CEO departures were announced, and 23.4 percent higher than the previous quarter, when 297 CEOs vacated.

Health care was the leading sector in CEO exits last quarter with 86. Thirty-one of those departures happened in March. Fifty CEO departures were announced at government and non-profit organizations last quarter. Computer firms followed with 40 CEOs leaving.

Of the 278 CEO replacements tracked in the first quarter, 43 women took the top spot.

“Obviously, there is still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in the C-suite, but certainly the appointments of [General Motors CEO Mary] Barra and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo in 2012 provide a glimpse into what the future could bring,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Barra, the former chief human resource officer at GM, took the helm in January 2014.

Businesses based in California saw the heaviest CEO turnover during the first three months of 2014, with 50 top executives announcing their departure. Companies in Texas noted 30 CEO changes during the first quarter. Twelve occurred in March. Meanwhile, New York-based organizations saw 20 CEO departures during the quarter.

According to a release from Challenger, the most notable announcements in March came from Eastman Kodak. That company replaced CEO Antonio Perez with Orbitz Worldwide’s Chairman Jeffrey Clarke. Perez will stay with the company as a special consultant. Bon-Ton Stores, based in Milwaukee, announced that CEO Brendan Hoffman will resign “after the monster commute from New York proved too much,” the release states. The company is still searching for his replacement.

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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