Challenger CEO Turnover Report: Exits Explode in July on Non-Profits, Health Care, Hospitals

Published August 24, 2023

197 CEOs Leave Posts in July

The number of CEO changes at U.S. companies surged in July, as 197 CEOs left their posts last month. It is the highest total since record-setting May, when 224 CEOs exited the top spot, according to a report released Thursday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

July’s total is 67% higher than the 118 CEO exits recorded in June. It is 240% higher than the 58 CEO exits recorded in the same month in 2022. So far this year, 1,104 CEOs have left their posts, up 33% from the 832 CEO changes during the same period in 2022. It is the highest total in the first seven months of the year since the firm began tracking in 2002.

“As layoffs slow, we’re beginning to see an increased pace of changes at the top. As staffing needs and hiring normalizes, Boards are looking for leadership with staying power,” said Andrew Challenger, workplace expert and Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Internal vs. External Incoming CEOs

According to Challenger’s analysis of replacement data, companies overall are typically split on whether replacements are external hires or come from within the ranks. That number begins to diverge when looking at just public companies, which tend to hire internal candidates.

“Public companies, those beholden to stock holders and followed by the press and analyst coverage, tend to grow their leaders internally, and have succession plans in place that show stability and continuity,” said Challenger.

This trend flipped somewhat during the tumultuous period of 2020, when even public companies tended to hire external leaders.

 

Challenger CEO Report July 2023 Table: Percent of Internal Replacements; 2017 - 2023; Data shows that public companies tend to hire internal candidates

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Challenger also noticed that 2023 has seen a lower rate of outgoing CEOs staying with the company in some capacity after a successor is named. In Challenger data, CEOs who move into a Chair or advisory role are categorized as “stepping down.” So far this year, 16% of CEOs have stepped into the Chair, Board, or other advisory position. In 2022, 22% of CEOs took these positions.

CEOs Who Step Down 2017 - 2023

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

“We know employees at every level, including the C-Suite, have experienced burn out over the last few years, while new technologies are forcing companies to rethink how they will do business going forward. Both companies and outgoing leaders may decide that a clean break makes more sense than keeping the CEO at the company during a time of rapid and complete change,” said Challenger.

Women CEOs

The rate of new CEOs who are women remained constant at 29%. 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 20% during the corresponding period in 2022. 2023 is seeing more new CEOs who are women than any previous year. Fully half of the incoming women CEOs are in the Government/Non-Profit sector, with 37% coming from Non-Profits. Seventeen percent are in Health Care and Hospitals. Another 6% are in Entertainment/Leisure.

Where Are CEO Exits Happening?

Government/Non-Profit led last month with 58 CEO exits. The sector has seen a total of 277 exits this year, up 58% from the 187 announced through July last year.

The Health Care/Products sector announced 19 exits last month, followed by Hospitals with 18.

Hospitals have announced a total of 100 CEO changes this year, an increase of 41% from the 71 Hospital CEOs who left their posts during the same period in 2022.

Reasons For Exits

Companies are most often not giving reasons for their CEOs’ departures at 364, 33% of all CEO exits, up from the 22% of CEOs who left for this reason last year.

Another 251 CEOs retired this year or 23% of all exits, similar to the 24% of CEOs who left for this reason last year. Forty-one CEOs found new positions within their companies, usually heading up another division or location within the umbrella company, while 176 (16%) of CEOs “stepped down” into other C-level, advisory, or Board roles.

Five CEOs left amid professional misconduct allegations, such as fraud or mismanagement of funds. One CEO left due to sexual harassment allegations, the same as in 2022.

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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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