2016 April CEO Turnover: Exits Hit 108; Strategy, Not Sector Weakness, Impacts Computer Leaders

Turnover among the nation’s chief executive officers increased for the second consecutive month in April, as 108 CEO departures were announced during the month. That was up 7 percent from 101 in March, according to a report released Wednesday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The April total was 11.3 percent higher than the same month a year ago, when announced CEO departures totaled 97. Last month marked the third time this year that departures exceeded 100.

To date, 427 CEOs have left their posts in 2016, 7.8 percent more than the 396 CEOs who exited during the first four months of 2015.

April CEO changes were led by hospitals which announced 15 exits, bringing the 4-month total to 49. Financial firms have also announced 49 CEO departures through April, including 13 last month.
Computer firms, along with government and non-profit organizations, each saw 14 CEO changes in April.

Computer firms have now announced 42 CEO departures this year, which ranks it just behind hospitals and financial firms for highest turnover. The year-to-date total is up 31 percent from a year ago, when computer companies announced 32 CEO exits in the first four months of the year.

“Despite a relatively healthy business conditions for technology, computer firms appear to be going through a period of increased volatility. This is seen in higher CEO turnover, as well as increased employee layoffs, which are up 262 percent from a year ago,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

To date, computer firms have announced 33,925 job cuts, up from 9,368 through the first four months of 2015.

“The volatility can be traced to shifts in strategy, as opposed to weakness in the sector. This was the case with Intel, which announced 12,000 job cuts last month, as it moves away from traditional desktop and laptop computing toward mobile,” noted Challenger.

Similarly, Symantec Corporation recently pivoted its focus away from desktop security toward one exclusively centered around cybersecurity. In the wake of this shift, Symantec’s CEO Michael Brown announced he would step down once a suitable replacement is found.

Of course, not all tech CEO changes were related to strategy shifts. April saw the ouster of Priceline CEO Darren Huston after an investigation uncovered an inappropriate relationship with an employee.

Retirement was the most oft-cited reason for departure in April as 34 chief executives used this reason with 129 occurring year to date. Another 25 stepped down into other positions, usually at the C-level or as board chair. Fifteen found new positions in other companies.