Published May 22, 2024

The number of CEO changes at U.S. companies fell 30% to 126 in April, from 180 in March. It is down 14% from 147 CEO exits recorded in the same month last year, according to a report released Wednesday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Chart showing the 2015-2024 YTD U.S. CEO Exit Numbers, April 2024 Challenger Turnover Report

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

April’s total marks the first time in 14 months that CEO exits were lower than the corresponding month a year earlier. So far this year, 748 CEOs have announced their departures, the highest year-to-date total on record. It is up 32% from 565 exits that occurred during the same period last year, which was the previous year-to-date record.

“The second quarter, on average, sees the fewest CEO changes, while the third quarter sees the most. This slowdown is not that surprising, given the high rate of turnover we’ve seen for the last 14 months,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Leaders are navigating enormous change with the advancement of AI technology, as well as changing economic conditions, an uncertain political landscape, and burgeoning global conflicts,” he added.

Andy Challenger quote on CEO Turnover Report for April 2024.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Women CEOs

The rate of new CEOs who are women rose slightly to 28.7% in April from 27.2% in March, and is holding to about 29% compared to the first four months last year. Twenty-two percent of exiting CEOs were women through April, up from 21% through the same period last year.

Where are CEO Exits Happening?

Government/Non-Profit is leading all industries this year with 183 CEO exits, 32 of which occurred in April. This is up 48% from the 124 CEO exits in this sector during the same period last year.

Technology follows with 84 CEO exits this year, with 19 in April. It has seen a 20% increase from the 70 that occurred through April 2023.

Healthcare/Products companies have announced 66 CEO changes this year, 11 in April, up 47% from the 45 CEO exits announced through the same period last year.

Fleeing Founders

Ninety leaders exited as founders so far this year, with 16 in April. This is compared to 17 instances of founders leaving their CEO roles through April one year prior.

“The pandemic and immediate post-pandemic saw an increase in start-up activity as companies grappled with new ways of operating. Successful founders also navigated those storms and are looking for other projects. We are seeing the conclusion of many of those runs in 2024,” said Challenger.

Reasons for Exits

Companies most often are not disclosing reasons for their CEOs’ departures last, with 206 cases (28% of all CEO exits).

Another 159 CEOs have retired this year, accounting for 21% of all exits, compared to 23% of CEOs who retired in the same period last year.

Chart showing the 2024 YTD reasons for CEO Exits, April 2024 Challenger Turnover Report

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Meanwhile, 184 CEOs “stepped down” into other C-level, advisory, or Board roles, making up 25% of all exits. Another 48 CEOs saw their interim periods end, while acquisition and merger activity accounted for 14 CEO exits.

Five CEOs left this year due to allegations of professional or sexual misconduct, typically involving investigations of mismanagement or harassment, as well as allegations or findings of inappropriate romantic relationships. That is compared to zero instances of these allegations through April last year.

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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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