Increased churn continues at the chief executive position, as employers at U.S.-based companies announced 159 chief executive officer changes, the highest monthly total on record, according to a report released Wednesday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Last month’s total was 28% higher than the 124 CEO exits announced in July. It is 3% higher than the 154 CEO changes announced in the same month last year, the previous highest monthly total. August marks the seventh time this year that CEO changes were higher than the corresponding month one year earlier.

So far this year, 1,009 chief executives have left their posts, 15% more than the 879 CEOs who left the top spot at companies through August 2018. It is the highest total of CEO exits in the first eight months of a year since Challenger began tracking in 2002.

Chief executives are leaving at a faster clip than even during the recession. In 2008, the next highest year for CEO turnover, 992 CEOs had announced their exits through August, 2% lower than the current year-to-date total.

“With growing uncertainty surrounding global business and market strength, the fact that so many companies are choosing this moment to find new leadership is no coincidence,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“That said, the high-level skill sets of many CEOs are in high demand right now, and the tight labor market and skills shortage may have many boards attempting to poach sitting leaders,” said Challenger.

Challenger tracks CEO changes at companies that have been in business for at least two years, with a minimum of ten employees.

Companies in the Government/Non-Profit sector continue to lead all sectors in CEO exits with 218. The Technology sector announced the second-highest number of CEO changes this year with 134, up 34% from the 99 who left their posts through August last year.

Health Care/Products companies and manufacturers have announced 83 CEO exits, down 2.3% from the 85 who announced their departures through August last year. Industrial Goods manufacturers, who have been particularly hard hit with trade issues, regulations and deregulation, have announced 44 CEO changes in 2019, 132% higher than the 19 announced through the first eight months of 2018.

Meanwhile, Energy companies announced 43 CEO changes this year, up 139% from the 18 CEOs who left their posts in this industry through August last year.

Companies appear to be holding on to their institutional knowledge. Through August, 330 chief executives, or 38%, stepped down into other positions within their company, usually as a Chairperson or other member of the C-Suite. Another 267 have retired from the CEO role, while 93 found new positions in other companies.

Twenty CEOs left their positions due to an acquisition or merger so far this year. That is compared to eight CEOs who left for that reason through August last year.


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

Contact Challenger for Media Inquiries


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