Challenger Report: CEO Exits Slow In May After High April Turnover

Published June 16, 2021

U.S. companies announced 99 CEO changes in May, down 26% from the 133 who left their posts in April, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Last month’s total is up 19% from the 83 CEOs who left their posts in May 2020. So far this year, 539 CEOs have left their posts, down 5.8% from the 572 CEO changes tracked through the same period last year.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Job openings, as well as the number of people willing to leave their jobs, were at record highs in April, according to the Department of Labor, which coincided with April’s high CEO turnover,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Indeed, the 133 CEO changes recorded in April was the highest monthly total since January 2020, when 219 CEOs left their posts.

“The pandemic created two different workplaces: those that occur in-person and those that are remote. Leaders are currently attempting to figure out what their workforces will look like in the post-COVID landscape and grappling with keeping their talent that may be looking for new, very available opportunities,” he added.

CEO turnover is led by Government/Non-Profit entities, which include charities, foundations, school systems, transportation authorities, and other government-funded entities. This sector announced 22 CEO changes in May for a total of 99, virtually unchanged from the 98 recorded through May 2020.

Another 69 CEOs left Health Care/Products firms, 41% higher than the 49 who left through the same period last year. Technology firms announced 56 CEO changes, down 27% from the 77 chief executives who left tech companies through the first five months of 2020.

CEO changes are up significantly in the Insurance sector. Seventeen CEOs have left at Insurance companies, up 183% from the 6 CEOs who left their posts in the same period last year. Financial sector CEO turnover is up 21%: 40 CEO exits through May 2021 compared to 33 through the same period last year.

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