Challenger: Fewer CEOs Exit in January

February 20, 2004 ( - The number of Chief Executive Officers (CEO) that abandoned their posts in January was down 25% to 50 in January.

The drop from December’s 67 defections marked the first time sinceoutsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. began tracking CEO turnover in August 1999 that there were fewer CEOs leaving in January than December.“January is typically a heavy turnover month. The fact that there were fewer departures this January is an indication that companies realize the value of steady leadership and are giving their top executives the time they need to strengthen and/or rebuild the business,” said Challenger CEO John Challenger, in a news release.

By comparison, in January of last year, there were 68 CEO departures.

Challenger also found data supporting this contention in the CEO tenure numbers for the month. The average CEO tenure in January came in at 9.5 years with the same companies, virtually stagnant from December’s 9.8 average tenure figure.

Resignations top the list of reasons given for turnover at the top, accounting for 13 of the month’s exits. After resignations, it was retirements making up 10 departures, 11 unspecified, eight that stepped down, 2 that “left” and one each for chalked up each to another position elsewhere, another position within the company, death, ouster, forced to resign and simply quitting.

The largest number of CEO exoduses occurred in the service industry, where nine chiefs left their tribes. The financial sector, which had the highest level of turnover in December (See Challenger: CEOs Staying Put Longer ), announced five departures in January.