Published November 22, 2021 

U.S.-based companies announced 142 CEO changes in October, up 38% from the 103 exits in September, and 54% higher than the 92 CEOs who left their posts in the same month last year. It is the highest monthly total since January 2020, when 219 CEOs left their posts, the most on record in a single month, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.


“CEOs are just as susceptible to the poaching and resignations occurring in the labor market as any other worker,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Most employers are citing burnout as the main motivator for workers leaving their positions. CEOs too have had to make difficult decisions over the last nearly two years, while dealing with potential supply chain and worker supply issues. There’s no wonder some are looking for something new,” he added.

Why Are CEOs Leaving?

“Retirement” was cited for 36 CEO exits last month, the highest monthly total for that reason since January 2020 when 49 CEOs retired. So far this year, 278 CEOs left for this reason, 11% higher than the 249 who did so during the same period last year. Another 101 CEOs found new opportunities at other companies so far this year, up 17.4% from the 86 CEOs who cited this reason for leaving through October 2020.

In 2021, 1,133 chief executives have left their posts, up 2.3% from the 1,108 CEOs who left their posts through October last year.

Incoming CEOs

The rate of new CEOs who are women held steady in October. Nearly 27% (26.5%) of new CEOs are women, compared to 26.9% in September, and 23% by this point in October 2020.

Meanwhile, of the replacement CEOs, 55% are external hires. With the exception of 2010 and 2013, companies more often replace their CEOs with internal candidates. In 2019, 56% of new CEOs were external and last year, 55% were external.

Which Industries Are Seeing the Most Turnover?

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 44 CEO changes in October for a total of 262 this year, down 30% from the 202 announced through this point last year.

Technology announced the second most CEO exits in October with 21, for a total of 144. Another 16 CEOs left Hospitals for a total of 95, up from the 90 who left Hospitals through this point in 2020. Ten CEOs left Health Care/Products firms, which include Health Care Products manufacturers and other health-related institutions that are not Hospitals, for a total of 103.

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