CEOs are exiting companies in record numbers so far this year

CEOs are on the run. In January of this year 157 CEO exits were announced, making it highest month on record, according to the CEO Turnover Report from executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas Inc.

This January exit rate was a 22% increase from the  129 CEO departures in December 2018 and a 19% increase over the 132 top executives that left a full year ago, in January 2018. Challenger began tracking CEO exits in 2002.

“Companies are responding to the strong, but uncertain, economic conditions by engaging new leadership who can both set companies on a path for growth while also gearing up for a potential downturn,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. He added that the strong economy over the last two years has led to new start-ups, which are now looking for looking for “more seasoned leaders,” which further added to high CEO turnover.

Of the 157 exits:

  • 73 stepped down voluntarily
  • 41 retired
  • 17 found positions at other companies
  • 1 left because of a scandal
  • 1 left because of misconduct allegations
  • 1 left because of an internal investigation

By sector, companies in government/nonprofit had the most exits, with 29, followed by healthcare/health product companies, with 17. Financial firms followed with 13 exits, and Pharma and technology each had 10.

The average age of a departing CEO was 60.7 years.