Through the first nine months of this year, 1,425 CEOs have left their posts at U.S. companies across industries—marking the highest nine-month total in over a decade.
According to global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the nine-month figure is 47 percent higher than the 969 CEO changes the firm counted for the during the same period in 2022—and surpasses any nine-month total on record since the firm began tracking in 2002.
According to the firm, in just the third quarter, 518 U.S. CEOs left their posts—also the most in a quarter on record. The third-quarter figure is up 166 percent from the 195 CEOs who left in the third quarter last year, and up 5.9 percent from second-quarter 2023.
“Companies are revving up for economic changes in the coming months,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a media statement. “With the rise of labor costs and interest rates, companies are looking to new leaders.”
Digging into details by industry, the report shows that insurance industry CEOs bucked the overall trends with the number of departures tallied by Challenger, Gray & Christmas almost exactly the same as last year’s count—16 in 2023 vs. 17 in 2022. For other financial firms, in contrast, the exit numbers mirrored the overall trend with exits rising 36 percent in 2023 so far.
Related article: “Interim Value: What Executive Departures Mean for P/C Insurers“
Other industries driving the overall numbers in the report include government and nonprofit CEO roles, where exits climbed more than 85 percent, as well as hospitals (exits up 67 percent) and technology companies (experiencing 45 percent more CEO exits in 2023).
Giving more details of reported reasons for exits across industries, the report says that there was no reason given for almost one-third (31 percent) of the 1,425 total departures, and that retirements accounted for another 22 percent. Seventeen percent of the CEOs included in the exit figures “stepped down” into other C-level, advisory, or board roles.
For just over 100, the exit marked the end of a tenure in an interim CEO role. (Related article: “Interim Value: What Executive Departures Mean for P/C Insurers”)