2012 CEO Departures Top 2011 Total

By SHRM Online staff Jan 14, 2013

The executive suite saw increased volatility as 2012 came to a close, with 323 chief executive officers leaving their posts in the final three months of the year, according to a Jan. 10, 2013, statement released by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was up 26 percent from 256 CEO departures recorded during the same period in 2011.

December 2012 marked the third consecutive month in which more than 100 CEO changes were recorded. A total of 103 CEO changes were announced that month, down 8 percent from the 112 departures announced in November but still up 24 percent from the same month in 2011, when 83 CEOs vacated their offices.

The year-end surge helped push the number of CEO departures recorded in 2012 to 1,214, representing a 3 percent increase over the 1,178 exits recorded in 2011. The 323 CEO changes announced in the third quarter of 2012 also represented a 14.5 percent increase from the previous quarter of 2012 and was the highest quarterly total since the fourth quarter of 2010.

“The increased pace of CEO turnover in the final months of 2012 could be indicative of a turning point in the recovery,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “We may see heavy turnover continue into 2013 as the economy continues to improve and companies shake up management to reflect a change in strategy from one centered around maintaining stability to one focused on growth and expansion.”

The health care sector experienced the highest CEO turnover in 2012 with 230 changes—up 23 percent from 187 changes in 2011. The government and nonprofit sector collectively had the second highest turnover in 2012 with 179, up 17.7 percent from 152 changes in 2011.

Computer firms and Internet service providers saw the next highest number of CEO exits with 127, up 9.5 percent over the 116 changes recorded in 2011. Several notable departures came from this sector in 2012, including announcements from Yahoo!, Intel and, most recently, Go-Daddy in December. Go-Daddy hired former Yahoo! chief product officer Blake Irving to replace Scott Wagner.

Financial firms recorded 123 CEO changes—the same number that was recorded for financial firms in 2011. The top four industries made up 54 percent of all recorded CEO changes in 2012.

Resignation was the most often cited reason for CEO departures, representing almost 30 percent of all recorded reasons. Retirement was cited by 267 CEOs in 2012. Another 200 CEOs stepped down from their posts, usually into a board or chairman position, while 138 found new positions in other companies.

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