US-based firms announced 106 CEO changes in December, up 8.2% from November; 1,337 CEOs have left their posts year-to-date, up 1.8% from 1,314 a year ago: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

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January 13, 2022 (press release) –

1,337 CEO CHANGES IN 2021, UP 2% OVER 2020
U.S.-based companies announced 106 CEO changes in December, up 8.2% from the 98 CEO exits recorded in November, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.


Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

In the fourth quarter, 346 CEOs left their post, down slightly from the 348 who did so in the third quarter. It is 16% higher than the 298 CEOs who left their positions in the final quarter of 2020.

Last year, 1,337 CEOs have left their posts, up 1.8% from the 1,314 CEOs who left their posts through 2020.

The rate of women taking over the CEO role was 26.4% to end 2021, up from 23.8% recorded in 2020.  It is slightly lower than its peak of 26.9% recorded in September of last year.


Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“We saw a spike in CEO exits in October, which aligned with a high quits rate and record job openings. Certainly, there are lots of opportunities for CEOs, just as there are for almost all levels across the labor market,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Related: October 2021 CEO report: The Great Resignation hits the top spot

“Turnover began to slow as supply chain issues and another wave of COVID cases arrived, causing companies to retain their leaders to weather the storm,” he added.

Reasons for leadership changes
The leading cause of exits last year was from CEOs “stepping down” from their posts, typically into other positions, usually to a Board or other C-Level role with 384, while 342 retired from their roles. Another 119 found new opportunities, up from 109 CEOs who cited this reason in 2020. 

Several CEOs left amid scandal and professional misconduct in 2021: 3 CEOs left due to allegations of sexual misconduct, 2 left amid allegations of professional misconduct, and 2 left amid allegations of racism, either personally or in the institution. That’s compared to 1, 3, and 4 CEOs who left for those reasons respectively in 2020.

Industries with the most turnover
CEO turnover was led by Government/Non-Profit entities, which include charities, foundations, school systems, transportation authorities, and other government-funded entities. This sector announced 309 CEO changes in 2021, up 30% from the 237 recorded in 2020. Technology announced the second most CEO exits in 2021 with 171, up 20% from the 143 announced in 2020. 

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Health Care/Products entities and manufacturers announced 124 CEO changes in 2021, down 5% from 130 CEO exits in this sector in 2020. Hospitals announced the fourth-most CEO exits in 2021 with 112, up 11% from the 101 CEO exits the year prior.

Are Companies Going with an Inside or Outside Hire?
For the third year in a row, external replacements outpaced internal ones. Of the 1,218 CEO replacements tracked, 666 of them were external. In 2020, 636 CEO replacements were external and 528 were internal.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Industry Intelligence Editor's Note: This press release omits select charts and/or marketing language for editorial clarity. Click here to view the full report.

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