Thought Leadership

Study: CEO Turnover Rate in 2018 Was the Highest in 10 Years

According to a study by executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a total of 1,452 CEOs left their posts in 2018, marking the highest number of departures since 2008’s 1,484 and a 25.2 percent uptick from 2017’s 1,160.

The report also found the 425 CEO changes in the fourth-quarter of 2018 to be the highest ever on record, a strong increase from 2017’s fourth-quarter departures of 294.

Though turnover rate throughout the years has been cyclic — departure totals increased by 95 between 2013 and 2014, for instance, only to decrease again by 120 by 2015 — Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, sees 2018’s spike in C-suite shakeups as a product of both economic uncertainty and newfound scrutiny into the ethics of executives by the public and the media.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty as we begin 2019. While the job market is strong, with low unemployment and strong hiring numbers, the stock market is in near-constant flux; trade concerns loom in many industries, including manufacturing and technology,” says Challenger. “Boards are anticipating a changing environment and putting leadership in place who are capable of succeeding in it.”


Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications. 

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