Pace of CEO Departures Quickens

January 31, 2003 ( - The New Year brought with it an accelerating pace of CEO departures - and some good news for those on the "inside" track.

The 68 announced chief executive officer departures in January was the highest since the 73 reported last October, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which also reported that the 6.6 year tenure of outgoing CEOs was the shortest since last July.   As recently as last October, the average tenure stood at a decade.

However, of the 21 companies that detailed succession plans in their announcements, 17 of the new CEOs came from within the company, according to Challenger.   In 12 of those 21, they were formerly presidents or chief operating officers.    The tendency to look “inside” continues a trend evidenced in 2002 (see  Fewer CEO Exits in 2002, More Hires from “Inside” ).

January turnover was “healthiest” in the health industry, which saw 14 chief executives leave their posts, more than double the six health care CEO departures in December.   Service and technology sectors, which have seen a robust level of turnover in the past, saw 9 and 7, respectively in January.

Since Challenger began its tracking of CEO departures in August, 1999, 3,121 departure announcements have been recorded.