2014 March CEO Report: 366 Q1 CEO Changes, Most Since Q3 2008

Turnover among the nation’s chief executive officers rose 9.8 percent in March, as 123 CEOs left their posts during the month. Last month’s departures brings the first-quarter total to 366, the most in a single quarter since 408 left their posts in the third quarter of 2008, according to a report released Wednesday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The quarterly total was 18.4 percent higher than the same period a year ago when 309 CEO exits were announced, and 23.4 percent higher than the previous quarter, when 297 CEO changes took place.

Healthcare was the leading sector in CEO changes last quarter with 86, 31 of which occurred in March. Government/Non-Profit entities announced 50 CEO departures last quarter, and computer firms followed with 40.

Of the 278 CEO replacements tracked in the first quarter, 43 women took the top spot. The most notable women to take over the CEO position in recent months was Mary Barra, whose ascension to chief executive officer of General Motors was announced in December and became effective in January.

“Obviously, there is still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in the c-suite, but certainly the appointments of Barra and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo in 2012, provide a glimpse into what the future could bring,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Mayer and Barra not only took over as CEO at two of the largest companies in their respective sectors, but they did so despite the fact that the automotive manufacturing and technology sectors still happen to be largely male-dominated, at all levels of the organizational hierarchy. And, while it is too optimistic to say the floodgates are opening, we saw several more examples in the first quarter of 2014 -- albeit less notable than GM and Yahoo -- as women took the helm at companies in the technology, financial, construction and energy sectors.”

California-based organizations saw the heaviest CEO turnover in the first quarter, with 50 top executives announcing their departure. Texas firms recorded 30 CEO changes in the first quarter, including 12 in March. Meanwhile, New York-based firms announced 20 CEO changes over the first three months of 2014.

The most notable announcements in March came from Eastman Kodak who replaced CEO Antonio Perez with Orbitz Worldwide’s Chairman Jeffrey Clarke. Perez will remain as special consultant. Milwaukee-based Bon-Ton Stores announced its CEO Brendan Hoffman will resign after the monster commute from New York proved too much. A search for his replacement is underway.