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Record number of CEOs left their companies in 2023, report finds

From YouTube to Bed Bath & Beyond, a historic 1,170 CEOs reportedly left their posts in 2023, mostly tied to COVID-related reasons, says business firm SVP Andrew Challenger.

C-suite executives reportedly took part in a historic job turnover in the year 2023.

An end-of-year report from business and coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. found that 1,170 CEOs left their positions by the fourth quarter of 2023, marking a 51% increase from the previous year – the highest increase since their tracking began in 2002.

"I think there are a few reasons," the firm’s senior vice president Andrew Challenger said on "Fox & Friends" Friday, "and they are related to COVID. There were a lot of CEOs that otherwise would have retired in the previous few years, except they didn't want to abandon their ships in the middle of a 100-year storm. So we're seeing them now leave their organizations a few years later."

"But we're also seeing boards that make decisions about who the leaders are going to be, feel more comfortable. They have more certainty in this post-COVID period about what the world is going to look like to bring in new, fresh leaders," he continued. "We're seeing lots of external replacements over the past year."


By November, most CEO exits were in the government and nonprofit sectors with 47 leaders leaving, an 86% surge from 2022. The second-highest industry leaves were in healthcare, followed by the technology sector.

Challenger noted that nonprofit organizations – which had 45 out of 47 of the sector’s exits in Q4 – often include "a lot of little companies" with higher turnover rates.

"Particularly in the arts nonprofit area, people aren't going back to live shows like they did prior to COVID, we're seeing lots of change there. Hospitals and health care is the same way," the workplace expert explained. "We've seen lots of consolidation, but also just a lessening of demand from that COVID period."

The report notes that many companies do not reveal the exact reason why C-suite leaders leave their posts, but recorded in 2023 that 5% left for "new opportunities," while 17% "stepped down" into other advisory roles.

"Fewer companies are holding on to their previous leaders this year compared to last year, opting for a fresh perspective in the current environment," Challenger said in the formal report.

Additionally, 10 CEOs exited due to allegations of professional misconduct while two resigned over alleged sexual misconduct.


"Though a fraction of CEOs are reportedly leaving their posts due to these allegations, we know the impact of the MeToo movement in 2017 led to the high rate that year," Challenger added in his firm’s report. "As new policies to combat workplace misconduct were enacted and enforced and investigations were likely completed, we saw a spike in 2019. Now, as companies are implementing return-to-office mandates after the pandemic, we are witnessing a similar trend."

Some notable CEOs who made their exit in 2023 include Northwestern Mutual’s John Grogan, Bed Bath & Beyond’s Jonathan Johnson, Publix’s Todd Jones and YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki.


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