2014 Year-End CEO Report: 107 CEO Exits in December; Highest Yearly Total Since 2008

Turnover among the nation’s chief executive officers reached a six-year high in 2014, as 1,341 vacated their posts during the year, according to the year-end report on announced CEO departures released Wednesday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The 2014 total was 7.6 percent higher than the 1,246 CEO departures tracked in 2013. It was the largest number of CEO changes since 2008, when 1,484 chief executives announced their exits.

The final quarter of the year saw 332 CEO departures, including 107 in December. The fourth quarter was up 12 percent from the 297 CEO changes recorded during the same period in 2013.

December exits were virtually unchanged from the 103 announced in November. Last month’s total was 8 percent higher than the 99 CEO departures announced in December 2013.

Health organizations lead this year with 294 announced changes, 19 of which occurred in December. That is nearly 10.9 percent more than the 265 departures health care organizations announced in 2013.

Government/non-profit entities, which include universities, foundations, and chambers of commerce, announced 14 CEO changes in December and 198 for the year, 10.1 percent more than the 178 tracked in all of 2013.

Financial firms place third for CEO departures with 141, virtually equal to the 143 announced departures in 2013. Companies in the computer sector announced 130 CEO changes, 7 percent more than the 121 announced the preceding year.

While the CEO suite continues to be dominated by men, there was a significant increase in the number of outgoing male CEOs being replaced by women. Of the 1,036 replacements Challenger has tracked this year, 881 or 85 percent, were men, compared to last year, when 89 percent of replacements were men.

The number of women replacing men increased by nearly 70 percent from 61 in 2013 to 103 last year. The number of women replacing women also increased. Meanwhile, the number of instances where departing female CEOs were replaced by men declined by 25 percent.

Through December 2014, 198 women have left the CEO position. Of those, 22 reportedly became CEOs elsewhere. In 2013, 158 women left the CEO position, 11 of whom reportedly went on to become CEO of another organization.

The majority of CEOs (391) resigned this year, while another 324 retired. Fifty executives were ousted, usually by the board, left amid scandal or fell into legal trouble, while 10 left due to financial losses.