Stories

CEOs are leaving at a record pace

Data: Challenger, Gray & Christmas; Note: Data shows announcements of departures among public and private companies with 10 or more employees that have been in business for at least two years; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Companies saw a great deal of CEO transition in 2019 — the highest rate of turnover annually through November since staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas began tracking the data in 2002.

Why it matters: It's a record pace of change for corporate America, with high-profile CEOs exiting because of sagging sales (think Under Armour’s Kevin Plank) or scrutiny over executive behavior (think ex-WeWork CEO Adam Neumann or Overstock's Patrick Byrne).

  • The #MeToo movement has prompted companies to take quicker action for inappropriate conduct, including consensual relationships with subordinate employees. One example: ex-McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook.

Details: Behind charities and nonprofits, the technology sector saw the highest most turnover, with 200 CEO departures (up from 138 last year).

By the numbers: Zeroing in on just publicly traded companies, the number of departures is still high: 284 CEOs have departed — the most since 2011.

  • Just because they've left, it doesn't mean they're out of the company entirely: 527 CEOs who stepped down from publicly traded firms or private companies assumed other roles, such as chair of the board.

Bonus stat: More companies hired CEO replacements from outside of the firm. It's a sign that corporations are seeking fresh perspectives.

  • Of those that immediately announced replacements, a 718 new CEOs took over from other companies, while 545 came from within the firm.
  • This is the first year external replacements passed internal takeovers since 2013, according to Challenger. But even then, the spread between how many came from inside vs. outside wasn't as wide.

Go deeper: