Published December 8, 2021

U.S.-based companies announced 98 CEO changes in November, a 31% drop from the 142 CEO exits recorded in October. It is the fourth time this year turnover was lower than the corresponding month a year earlier, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Challenger Analysis

“CEO turnover certainly accelerated to start the third quarter, but was curtailed as we approach the end of the year. The labor market is tightening despite the millions still out of work, and companies are continually plagued by difficulties hiring and retaining talent,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“The slowdown suggests companies are being cautious on news of a new variant, inflation concerns, and potential political tensions overseas,” he added.

So far this year, 1,231 CEOs have left their posts, up 1.1% from the 1,218 CEOs who left their posts through the same period in 2020.

Historically, the most CEOs announce their departures in January, with an average of 116 CEO exits recorded in January since 2004. September follows with an average of 110 announced exits, according to Challenger.

“Retirement” was cited by 30 CEOs in November and 308 for the year. This is 25% of exiting CEOs in 2021, up from 22% who cited this reason in all of 2020. Another 26 CEOs stepped down from their CEO role last month, typically into other positions, usually to a Board or other C-Level role. A total of 326 CEOs have cited this reason for leaving, 26% of all CEOs in 2021.

Women CEOs

The rate of new CEOs who are women fell slightly from its peak in September, when 26.9% of new CEOs were women. Through November, 26.1% of new CEOs are women, compared to 23% by this point in 2020.

Which Industries Lead?

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 26 CEO changes in October for a total of 288 this year, down 33% from the 216 announced through this point last year.

CEOs in Tech

Technology announced the second most CEO exits in November with 18, for a total of 162. This is 19% higher than the 136 CEO exits recorded in this industry through the same period last year.

Summary Tables

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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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