CEO Changes Continue Upward Trajectory, May Exits Up 52% From Same Month Last Year

Published June 15, 2022

The number of CEO changes at U.S. companies rose 22% to 150 in May from 123 in April. It is 52% higher than the 99 CEO changes announced in the same month in 2021, according to a report released Wednesday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

So far this year, 668 CEOs have left their posts, the highest January-May total since the firm began tracking monthly CEO changes in 2002. It is up 24% from the 539 CEO exits announced through May last year, and up 6% from the previous high of 627 exits announced in the first five months of 2019.

“The CEO exodus continues. Economic conditions, rising inflation, and recession concerns are making boards rethink leadership and leaders rethink if they want to take on these challenges,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

CEO departure by month; 2021 vs 2022; May 2022 Challenger Report

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Industries with the Most Leadership Change

Government/Non-Profit entities lead all industries in CEO turnover with 154 so far this year, followed by Technology companies with 63. Technology firms saw 16 exits last month, the fourth-highest industry in May.  Last month, Technology companies announced the most job cuts since December 2020, according to Challenger’s monthly Job Cuts Report.

“The ready capital that was available to Tech companies the last few years is starting to slow, and job cuts are following. Generally, new leaders are brought in during a period of uncertainty. Former leaders often remain with the company for a period of time, either as a consultant or continue as a Board Member or Chair to maintain institutional knowledge and have the appearance of a seamless transition,” said Challenger.

Reasons Why

Thirty-three CEOs retired last month for a total of 155 so far this year, while 183 CEOs stepped into other high-level roles within the company, usually as a Chair or advisor to the CEO, this year. Another 39 CEOs left for new opportunities, with 11 in May.

CEO departure by reason; 2021 vs YTD 2022; May 2022 Challenger Report

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Female Leaders

The rate of women taking over the incoming CEO role remained unchanged at 26% so far in 2022, up slightly from the 24% of incoming women who made up new CEOs through the same period in 2021.

# # #

Download Full Report