Challenger: CEO Turnover Jumps 41%

April 5, 2004 ( - The number of Chief Executive Officers (CEO) who abandoned their posts in March was up 21 from the numbers reported the previous month.

March’s 72 CEO departures represent a 41% jump from the 51 reported in February (See CEO Exits Steady in February ). Interestingly enough , Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc, the outplacement firm that crunches the chief executive departure figures, says thesurge in CEO departures this month can be attributed to an improving economy.

“A growing number of companies are transitioning from a business strategy focused on surviving the economic slump to one that stresses expansion and innovation. The change in direction could prompt many boards to decide new leadership is necessary,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Of the 72 departures announced in March, 29 (40%) were for unspecified reason, a significant climb from only a quarter of exits unaccounted for in February, when Challenger said company’s were being more transparent with their C-suite shuffling. Following unspecified reasons, 20 CEO left due to retirement, 14 resigned, five “stepped down,” three accepted another position and one was “replaced.”

The largest number of CEO exoduses occurred in the service sector, where 14 chiefs left their tribes. This was followed by health (13), financial (12), technology (12) and consumer goods (7). Last month’s industry with the highest turnover level was finance with 12.