Challenger: CEO Exits Steady in February

March 4, 2004 ( - The number of Chief Executive Officers (CEO) who abandoned their posts in February was virtually unchanged at 51.

February’s CEO exits were up only one from the 50 recorded in January. However, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc, the outplacement firm that crunches the chief executive departure figures, say the real story is behind the numbers, in the number of companies that are more open about why their CEO left.

“Before the new era of transparency, departures due to investigations or poor performance would have been designated simply as a resignation or announced that the person left for unspecified reasons,” observed John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas in a news release.

Overall, of the 51 departures announced in February, only 13 (25%) did not specify a reason. Comparatively, In February 2002, 20 of the 58 CEO changes gave no reason for the departure and for the companies that did, most of the departures designated as resignations gave no reason for the decision.

For the more upfront companies, the number one reason for their CEO leaving was retirement, accounting for 18 of the month’s exits. After retirement is was unspecified reason making up 13 departures, 11 were chalked up to resignations, three each were for stepping down and taking another position within the company, two “left” and one CEO found a position elsewhere.

The largest number of CEO exoduses occurred in the financial sector, where 12 chiefs left their tribes. Last month’s industry with the highest turnover level, service (See Challenger: Fewer CEOs Exit in January ) was second with 10 departures, tied with health.