Published April 25, 2024

The number of CEO changes at U.S. companies fell 27% to 180 in March, from the record-high 248 in February. It is up 29% from the 139 CEO exits recorded in the same month last year, according to a report released Thursday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

March’s total is the highest for the month since the firm began tracking CEO exits in 2002. In the first quarter, 622 CEOs have announced their departures, the highest quarterly total on record. It is up 49% from the 418 exits in the first quarter of last year, and up 27% from the 489 CEO exits which occurred in the previous quarter.

Quarterly CEO Exits 2017 - Q1 2024

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©


“C-Level leaders have had an incredibly challenging few years, and are transitioning out of their roles, whether for new opportunities or to get fresh starts elsewhere,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Rapid technological advancements, in addition to an election year, may make it a palatable time to make changes at the top,” he added.


The rate of new CEOs who are women held in March from February, but has fallen YOY. In March, 27.2% of new CEOs were women, down from 30% through March 2023. Twenty percent of exiting CEOs were women in the first quarter, down from 21% through the first quarter last year.

“Women leaders are often not feeling supported in their roles. This could include a lack of flexibility, lower pay than their male counterparts, inequitable expectations, and a lack of resources,” said Challenger.


Government/Non-Profit led last month with 47 CEO exits, 44 of which occurred at Non-Profits, for a total of 154. This is a 78% increase from the 88 CEO exits in this sector during the same period last year.

Technology follows with 13 CEO exits last month. So far this year, this industry has announced 65 CEO exits, up 30% from the 50 announced in the first quarter of 2023.

Healthcare/Products announced 15 CEO changes in March, for a total of 55 exits so far in 2024. That is a 162% increase from the 21 exits announced through March 2023.

Several industries have had an increase in CEO turnover over last year:

  • Industrial Goods Manufacturing: 367% increase
    • (34 CEO exits in Q1 2024 compared to 3 in Q1 2023)
  • Pharmaceutical: 200% increase
    • (24 in Q1 2024 compared to 8 in Q1 2023)
  • Consumer Products: 133% increase
    • (28 exits in Q1 2024, compared to 12 in Q1 2023)
  • Food: 100% increase
    • (20 CEO exits in Q1 2024 compared to 10 in Q1 2023)


Companies most often are not disclosing reasons for their CEOs’ departures last, with 183 cases (29% of all CEO exits).

Another 131 CEOs have retired this year, accounting for 21% of all exits, compared to 25% of CEOs who retired in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, 146 CEOs “stepped down” into other C-level, advisory, or Board roles making up 23% of all exits. Another 36 CEOs saw their interim periods end, while acquisition and merger activity accounted for 12 CEO exits.

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Contact Colleen Madden Blumenfeld for more data or to set up an interview with SVP Andy Challenger.

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