Challenger CEO Turnover Report: Highest Quarterly Total on Record in Q3

Published October 19, 2023

The number of CEO changes at U.S. companies rose in September as 164 CEOs left their posts in the month. It is up 4.5% from the 157 CEO changes announced in August, and up 122% from the 74 CEOs who left their posts 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.

So far this year, 1,425 CEOs have left their posts, up 47% from the 969 CEO changes during the same period in 2022. It is the highest total in the first nine months of the year since the firm began tracking in 2002.

In the third quarter, 518 CEOs left their posts, the most in a quarter on record. It is up 166% from the 195 CEOs who left in the third quarter last year, and up 5.9% from last quarter.


CEO Exits By Quarter YTD From 2017 Q3 2023

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

“Companies are revving up for economic changes in the coming months. With the rise of labor costs and interest rates, companies are looking to new leaders,” said Andrew Challenger, workplace expert and Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Women CEOs

The rate of new CEOs who are women continues to hold steady throughout the year at 29% (28.79%). It is higher than the 26% of new CEOs who were women during the same period in 2022. Meanwhile, women CEOs leaving the top spot is holding at 22%, up from 18% during the corresponding period in 2022. 2023 is seeing more new CEOs who are women than any previous year.

Through September, 42% of the new CEOs who are women went into Government/Non-Profit. Another nearly 10% became heads of Health Care/Products companies, while 7% head Hospitals. Financial firms hired 6% of new women CEOs. Technology saw 4% of the women CEOs Challenger tracked take the helm.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Where are CEO Exits Happening?

Government/Non-Profit led last month with 28 CEO exits. The sector has seen a total of 353 exits this year, up 86% from the 190 announced through September last year. Health Care/Products announced the second highest number of CEO changes in September with 24, while Hospitals announced 9. Through September, Hospitals have announced 125 CEO changes, 67% more than the 75 announced during the same period last year.

The Services industry saw 15 CEO changes last month, for a total of 40, up 90% from the 21 who left companies in this sector through September 2022.

Technology saw 12 CEO exits last month for a total of 141, the second-highest industry for CEO turnover this year. It is up 45% over the same period last year, when 97 CEOs left Tech companies.

Reasons for Exits

Companies are most often not giving reasons for their CEOs’ departures at 448, 31% of all CEO exits, up from the 24% of CEOs who left for this reason through September last year.

Reasons For CEO Departure September 2023 Vs YTD

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Another 318 CEOs retired this year or 22% of all exits, down slightly from the 24% of CEOs who retired last year. Forty-five CEOs found new positions within their companies, usually heading up another division or location within the umbrella company, while 241 (17%) of CEOs “stepped down” into other C-level, advisory, or Board roles.

Another two CEOs left their posts last month due to allegations of professional misconduct for a total of eight this year. Two CEOs left due to sexual harassment allegations, one of which occurred last month.

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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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