2019 Was a Historical Year for CEO Turnovers

1,640 executives stepped down from their posts last year.

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Last year was one for the record books, according to Challenger, Gray, and Christmas. Challenger, an outplacement and metrics firm, tracks changes at the corporate level in businesses that have at least ten employees and have been in business for two years or more. In 2019, more CEOs departed from their posts than any other year on record since 2002. Since 2004, U.S. companies have been steadily seeing higher numbers of CEOs relieved of their positions.

In all, last year, 1,640 CEOs stepped down from the companies they ran. This is a higher number than 2008 during the financial crisis when 1,484 executives no longer remained in charge. One hundred sixty of the chief executives left in December.

Among the most notable exits was Boeing’s Dennis Muilenberg. The CEO was eliminated from his charge after the 737 Max crisis began to unfold. Boeing’s troubles began after two fatal plane crashes killed 346 in a span of five months. The company has since had difficulty maintaining the trust of consumers and regulators. David Calhoun will replace Muilenberg as CEO on Jan. 13.

Challenger’s Vice President, Andrew Challenger, said: “The number of chief executives who announced their departures in 2019 was staggering.”

The governmental and nonprofit sectors saw the highest CEO turnovers last year. Together, the two sectors accounted for 339 CEO departures in all. The second-highest CEO turnovers occurred in the technology sector, with 216 changes to the top. It also represented one of the highest jumps. In 2018, there were 42 percent fewer CEO turnovers in the tech industries.

Many companies also sought to bring in new talent and turned to executives outside of their companies to replace outgoing CEOs. In all, 784 new chiefs in 2019 came from outside the companies they were going to lead, while 620 came from inside the companies they worked for.


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