Intelligence

Chief Exiting Officer

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That’s how many U.S. CEOs left their companies in August. It’s the highest rate of turnover since at least 2002.

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It’s not just last month. There have been 1,009 CEO departures so far in 2019. That’s a faster pace than even 2008, when the economy was mid-recession, according to a CNBC report on research by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an executive coaching firm that tracks CEO exits. Plenty of executives have left in September, as well, with the heads of Juul, eBay and WeWork out just this week. 

What’s driving the exodus? It’s partially a side effect of ongoing trade conflicts. With so much macroeconomic volatility, investors are nervous and trying to keep executives on tighter leashes. 

Last week, the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs of America’s biggest companies, lowered their economic forecast for the year, citing tensions with China and the stalled USMCA trade agreement. 

Increasingly bold activist investors are also playing a role. EBay’s head left after clashing with investors that wanted him to sell big parts of the company. 

The volatility is particularly pronounced in the tech industry: 134 tech CEOs left last month, a 34 per cent increase from August 2018. Only chief executives in the government and non-profit sectors had more departures. 

Canada has had its own share of high-profile departures recently. CEOs at SNC-Lavalin, Canopy Growth and Walmart Canada have all packed their bags over the summer.