American CEOs Are Back to Keeping Their Jobs

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The number of U.S. CEOs who lost or left their jobs in April fell by 39% compared to the March total. Last month 97 CEOs left their jobs compared to 135 who left in March. Year over year CEO turnover decreased by 11% (from 109). All that said, CEO turnover in the first four months of 2019 is up 14%, from 450 to 513 CEO job changes.

The data was reported Wednesday by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In the first quarter of this year, 416 CEOs departed, the first-quarter total since the firm began reporting the data in 2002.

The 2018 fourth-quarter total of 429 departing CEOs was also the highest quarterly total in the history of the report. A total of 1,452 CEOs left their jobs in 2018, the second-highest total ever. In all of 2017, a total of 1,160 CEOs left their jobs, down 7% from the prior year’s total of 1,248.

Vice-president Andrew Challenger said, “The churn we have been experiencing at the top since last August, with monthly totals well higher than average, seems to have cooled, at least for the moment. Job cuts announced by U.S. employers also slowed in April, suggesting the record expansion we’ve seen this year may be in a holding pattern, as companies take a wait-and-see approach.”

Of the CEOs who left in April, 33 stepped down, 24 retired, and 11 took new positions with another company. Three took another position with the same company. Challenger noted that one CEO reportedly left due to sexual misconduct allegations and another one left following allegations of professional misconduct. No CEO was involuntarily terminated last month.

The government/non-profit sector saw 19 CEO changes in April, bringing the four-month total to 114, the most of any Challenger category and a 31% year-over-year increase. Financial sector CEO departures in 2019 increased by 2 to 45, equal to the number of tech industry CEOs who have departed this year. Healthcare industry CEO departures total 55 for the year to date and are 22% lower than in the first four months of last year.

The average age of a departing CEO in April was 60 years compared to an average age of 63.6 among April 2018’s departing chiefs. The average tenure of these CEOs was 8.8 years last month compared with 10.4 years in April 2018.

The following chart from Challenger’s April report shows CEO departures by month from January 2010 to April 2019.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

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