C-suite shakeups are set to hit a record-high in 2019, according to a new report.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. reports that 172 chief executives exited their positions at companies across a range of industries in the U.S. last month — up 15% from October 2018 and 14% from this September.
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The business and executive coaching firm adds that 1,332 CEOs have left their posts so far in 2019 — the highest amount of shakeups recorded from January-October since tracking began in 2002.
In the athletic space, October saw the announced departures of two high-profile CEOs: Nike’s Mark Parker and Under Armour’s Kevin Plank. Both leaders will remain at their respective companies in the roles of executive chairman after exiting their CEOs posts in January.
John Donahoe, the current president and CEO of ServiceNow Inc. and chairman of PayPal Holdings, to take Parker’s place in the top spot at Nike. While Beaverton, Ore. company positioned the transition as a natural move to amp up digital-focused efforts, some insiders speculated that controversy surrounding allegations of harassment and a toxic work environment for women, as well as the “wind down” of the Nike Oregon Project following the ban of beach coach Alberto Salazar, might play a role.
Plank will be replaced by president and COO Patrik Frisk, with the transition coming amid concerns about UA’s workplace culture and growth strategy. Two weeks after the exit announcement, the brand confirmed it was under federal investigation related to its accounting procedures.
Additionally, October saw executive turnover in the top spots at Sequential Brands Group, where CEO Karen Murray’s replacement has yet to be named; at Walmart U.S., with John Furner replacing Greg Foran as CEO; and at Chloé, where Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye was replaced by Riccardo Bellini.
In the fashion space, September marked a big month of shakeups, too. Tapestry Inc. replaced CEO Victor Luis with Jide Zeitlin, an exec who has more than a decade experience on the company’s board. Also that month, EBay president and CEO Devin Wenig left the company, Giuseppe Zanotti named Eugenio Manghi its CEO and Gap Inc. appointed Mary Beth Laughton as president and CEO.
Andrew Challenger, VP of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said that while some October exits came for “various missteps,” most came “amid normal succession plans.”
“After a decade of expansion, companies that started ten years ago are finding themselves in a phase where new leadership is needed,” he added. “Other companies are adapting to changing technologies or finding new leadership based on current economic conditions and forecasts for the coming year.”
Within a day of November’s beginning, there had already been one high-profile exit: Amid Barneys New York’s bankruptcy woes and Authentic Brands Group’s plans to liquidate most of the retailer’s outposts, Barneys CEO and president Daniella Vitale resigned Nov. 1 in a letter to employees.
Prior to this year, the highest volume of CEO exits occurred in 2008, amid the Great Recession. At this time in 2008, CEO exits totaled 1,257, 6% less than this year’s 1,332 departures.
Challenger’s study looks at CEO changes at companies across all industries that have been in business for two or more years, with at least 10 employees. In the retail sector, it found a 57% increase in the number of CEO departures; in the consumer products category, exits were down 30%.
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