CEO departures highest since Sept. 2008

By Chavon Sutton, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of chief executives who left their posts surged in February to the highest level since September 2008, when the economy was rocked by the financial crisis.

Chief executive departures jumped 48% to 132 in February, from 89 in January, according to a report out Wednesday from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an outplacement consultancy. That's the highest level of turnover in the corner office since 140 CEOs left office in September, 2008.

Last month's total was also up 61% from February, 2009.

"For the past 12 to 18 months, companies needed leaders who could see them through the recession," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

"Now, they are reassessing and, in many cases, replacing executives with those who are better equipped to take advantage of expansion," he said.

So far in 2010 a total of 221 CEO's vacated their seats, well ahead of the 196 chiefs who left during the same period last year, according to the report.

Some of the biggest names to clear out their offices this year include Jonathan Schwartz who famously tweeted about his last day at Sun Microsystems (SUNW), Owen Van Natta, whose tenure at the helm of MySpace lasted less than one year and Walt Freese who left Ben & Jerrys.

Health care has seen the most turnover this year, with 35 departures, followed by the government and non-profit sector which saw 23 leaders step down, and the energy sector, which had 16 CEO's leave this year.

Challenger said that nonprofit and health care CEO's have buckled under the weight of monstrous state budget deficits and the uncertainty surrounding health care reform.

"There's no consensus on how to deal with [the health care industry], but near unanimous agreement that's it's not working," said Challenger. "This puts great pressure on a CEO."

Challenger expects to see CEO departures continue to climb this year.

"As the economy improves and companies try to improve their competitive position through mergers and acquisitions," said Challenger, "we will see more and more top executives leave the newly combined companies."  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,804.71 -238.19 -1.40%
Nasdaq 4,422.09 -71.31 -1.59%
S&P 500 1,946.16 -26.13 -1.32%
Treasuries 2.40 -0.10 -4.19%
Data as of 5:30am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.82 -0.23 -1.35%
Ford Motor Co 14.59 -0.20 -1.34%
Facebook Inc 76.55 -2.49 -3.15%
Apple Inc 99.18 -1.57 -1.56%
Cisco Systems Inc 25.03 -0.18 -0.72%
Data as of Oct 1

Sections

In the last five years, pumpkin sales have risen 34% as people demand pumpkin in everything from beer to beef jerky. More

Facebook's chief product officer issued an apology to Sister Roma and the drag community on Wednesday for its flawed 'real name' policy. More

New York City launches a comprehensive site for all things related to its digital tech scene, Digital.NYC. More

For these seniors, the best retirement is not to retire. From a 102-year-old Wal-Mart worker to an activist park ranger, these workers have stayed on the job well into their golden years. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.