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Fewer CEO Departures in 2007

Last year, 1,356 chief executives left their firms, an 8.3 percent decrease from 2006’s record 1,478 departures.

January 8, 2008
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Despite last year’s credit problems, C-suite exits fell from 2006’s record levels, according to a report from Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc.

In 2007, 1,356 chief executives left their companies, an 8.3 percent fall from 2006’s record 1,478 departures, according to the Chicago recruiting firm’s CEO Turnover Report.

Of those exits, 134 of those came from the financial services sector.

However, only five CEOs lost their jobs because their firms were saddled with deep losses from the subprime market collapse—including the infamous ousters of Merrill Lynch’s Stan O’Neal and Citigroup’s Charles Prince, according to the report.

Some 369 chiefs resigned last year; 40 of those individuals were fired for reasons ranging from incompetence to personal conduct.

Three hundred thirty-three retired, 277 left the C-suite to become directors, and 123 left to join new companies.

But the number of executives pushed out of the job is hardly reflective of the damage that occurred on their watch.

“There is no doubt that CEOs are under more scrutiny than in the past, but the lack of turnover resulting from the credit crisis reveals how sheltered they remain,” Challenger Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger said in a statement. “In the wake of the 2006 backdated options scandal, in which hundreds of companies and CEOs were investigation, only 20 CEOs were forced to resign, including just two this year.”

A total of 369 chief executives resigned, with some caving in to shareholder or directorial pressure.

The job bleeding may flow into 2008 if the economy worsens or goes into a recession, especially from firms recently purchased by private equity firms, Challenger said.

“We could see another year of heavy, if not record CEO departures, as companies make leadership adjustments to traverse the downturn,” he noted in the statement.

Filed by Darla Mercado of Investment News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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