Challenger February 2021 CEO Report

Published March 10, 2021

Turnover at the chief executive level jumped 19% from January’s total of 89 to 106 in February, according to a new report released Wednesday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Last month’s total is down 17% from the 128 CEOs who left their posts in February 2020. So far this year, 195 CEO changes have been recorded, down 43.8% from the 347 announced through this point in 2020.

Challenger Analysis

“Companies finally have the ability to plan and make reasonable projections, something that has been incredibly difficult over the last 12 months,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Companies have had to pivot and adapt rapidly. Now that there’s an end in sight, a change in leadership may be the best option to navigate this new post-COVID era,” he added.

Industries with the Most Leadership Change

CEO turnover was led by Government/Non-Profit entities, which include charities, foundations, school systems, transportation authorities, and other government-funded entities. This sector announced 16 CEO changes in February for a total of 29 this year, a 59% decrease compared to the 63 announced through this period last year.

Another 12 CEOs left Health Care/Products firms, and 11 CEOs left Entertainment/Leisure companies. Ten CEOs left firms in the Services sector.

Nine Technology CEOs left their posts through February. So far this year, 16 CEOs have left Technology firms, down 69% from the 51 CEOs who left companies in this sector through February 2020.

Incoming CEOs by Gender

Through February, 20% of incoming CEOs are women, down from 24% through February last year. The rate of incoming women CEOs has ticked up since January, when 18% of new CEOs were women.

So far this year, of all the incoming women CEOs, Non-Profits saw the highest rate, at nearly 15%. Of all the replacements tracked at Non-Profits, 31% were women. Financial firms and Health Care/Products companies saw the second-highest number of women CEOs at 12% each. Through February, 25% of incoming CEOs at Financial firms were women, while 18% of new CEOs were women at Health Care/Products companies. 

Industries with the Highest Rate of Incoming Women CEOs & Percentage of Incoming Women CEOs Compared to All Replacements

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The majority of CEOs (33) stepped down into other roles in February, usually as a Board Chair or other C-Level executive, for a total of 61 for the year. Another 60 retired this year, while 18 found new opportunities. Seven CEOs left due to an acquisition or merger, and two left due to differences with the Board.

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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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Challenger's Media Coverage

From Jeff Bezos To Kendra Scott: These Leaders All Recently Stepped Down From The Companies They Founded

Original Article

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After CEO churn dropped 20% year-over-year with 1,314 exiting in 2020—due, in part, to companies’ reluctance to make major leadership changes amid the coronavirus crisis—195 departed in the first two months of 2021, according to recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Several have been founders.

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