2017 February CEO Report: Monthly CEO Exits Fall to Lowest Level Since 2004

Turnover among the nation’s chief executive officers fell to the lowest level in almost 13 years last month as US-companies announced 72 CEO changes, according to a report released Wednesday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Last month’s total was 43 percent lower than the 128 chief executives who left their posts in January, and 17 percent lower than February 2016, when 87 CEOs announced their departures. February’s total is the lowest monthly total since December 2004 when 56 CEOs left their posts.

So far this year, companies have announced 200 CEO exits, 8 percent more than the 218 CEOs who left their posts through February 2016.

“February is typically a slow month for CEO turnover, since most major leadership changes happen in January or at a company’s fiscal year-end. This year is particularly unique with a new administration promising legislation favorable to business. Companies may use a wait-and-see approach in light of this,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Financial companies, and hospitals each saw 8 CEO changes last month, leading all industries in departures. Computer companies saw 7 CEO changes while companies in the industrial goods manufacturing space reported 6 chief executive changes. Firms in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, energy, retail, and transportation industries tracked 5 CEO changes each.

The majority (29) of CEOs retired last month. Another 25 stepped down from their posts but continue to be active in the company usually as a C-level executive or chairperson. Four CEOs saw their interim periods end, while 3 found new positions in other companies.

Texas announced the most CEO departures last month with 11, while California reported 8 chief executive exits. New York companies announced 7 CEO changes. Massachusetts, Illinois, and Pennsylvania each recorded five CEO exits.

“We average at least 90 CEO exits per month, with February and April seeing the fewest exits. It will be interesting to see if companies continue to hold off making leadership changes,” said Challenger.