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Private equity firms love to fire CEOs

Private equity firms typically fire the CEOs of companies they acquire, according to a survey conducted by turnaround consultant Alix Partners and executive recruiter Vardis.

The big numbers:

  • 58% of PE firms expect to fire inherited CEOs within two years.
  • 73% of PE firms expect to fire inherited CEOs over the lifecycle of their investment.

The most common explanation given was "a lack of fit with the portfolio company's new strategic direction." In terms of exceptions to the rule, respondents said that one key success factor is having had prior CEO experience under private equity ownership.

Caveat: The exact survey question was: "Upon acquiring a new portfolio company, when do you typically replace the CEO?" ― so there might have been a bit of leading the witness here. It's also too bad that respondents weren't asked about retention rates for non-legacy CEOs (i.e., the new ones PE firms bring in).