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CEO turnover in U.S. hits highest quarterly total since 2020: Report

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April 18, 2023
By Talent Canada

Image: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc

The number of CEO changes at companies in the United States fell 17% from the 167 in February to 139 last month.

But March’s total is up 18% from the 119 CEOs who left their posts in the same month one year prior, according to a report released Tuesday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Highest March on record

March’s total is the highest total for that month since Challenger began tracking CEO exits in 2002. In the first quarter, 418 CEOs left their posts, up 6% from the 395 who left their posts in the first quarter of 2022. It is up 57% from the 266 CEO exits tracked in the last quarter of 2022.

The first quarter saw the most CEO exits in a single quarter since 441 CEOs left their roles in the first quarter of 2020. It is the second highest first-quarter total on record.


“Companies are undergoing a significant amount of change as they respond to economic challenges, higher costs, and talent management issues,” said Andrew Challenger, leadership expert and Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Where are CEO exits happening?

Government/non-profit leads all industries in 2023 with 85, down slightly from the 90 CEOs who left their posts in the same period in 2022.

Hospitals reported the second-most CEO exits with 54, up 86% higher than the 29 announced through March last year.

The technology sector announced 50 CEO changes this year, as the industry conducts layoffs. It is up 32% from the 38 who left their posts in the first quarter of 2022. Technology companies have announced 102,391 cuts so far this year, up 38,487% from the 267 cuts the sector announced in the first quarter of 2022, according to the latest Challenger Report.

The financial industry announced the third-highest number of CEO exits with 40, a 48% increase from the 27 who left their CEO positions at Financial companies in Q1 2022.

CEOs exited 61 public entities in the first quarter, down slightly from the 65 public companies that had CEO changes in the first quarter of last year.

Why are CEOs leaving?

Companies are most often not giving reasons for their CEOs’ departures at 127, up 104% from the 62 who left without reason last year. Another 106 CEOs retired this year, up 15% from the 92 who retired in the same period last year.

Twenty-five found new positions within their companies, usually heading another department or company within the company hierarchy. This is up 92% from the 13 who did so during the same period last year. Twenty saw their interim periods end.

Number of women CEOs increasing

The rate of new CEOs who are women continues to rise in March, as 32% of new CEOs are women through the first quarter, an all-time high.

In the first quarter of 2022, 26% percent of new CEOs were women. Women are leaving the CEO role at the same rate this year compared to the same period last year: 21.1% of exiting CEOs were women in Q1 2023 and Q1 2022.

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