Alphabet CEO, Larry Page.
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | GettyImages
2019 is the year of CEO departures.
In November, 148 chief executives left their posts, according to business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Only five more CEOs need to depart for 2019 to be the highest year on record, and we already know of a few CEOs out in December.
Alphabet, United Airlines, Expedia and SoulCycle are just a few of the companies that lost their chief executive officers in recent weeks, continuing the record-setting pace of exits this year by the heads of U.S. businesses.
“Several factors are contributing to the high rate of CEO turnover. One is a strong economy, and high demand for C-level skills are attracting CEOs to new positions. Another is the ongoing uncertainty surrounding trade and regulations while emerging technologies continue to disrupt almost every industry,” said the firm’s vice president, Andrew Challenger.
Through November, 1,480 chief executives left their companies in 2019, which is the highest number on record in the first 11 months of a year. The highest total year on record was in 2008 when 1,484 CEOs departed when the economy was embroiled in the financial crisis. In The firm started tracking CEO departures in 2002.
Perhaps the largest C-suite shuffle news recently surrounds Alphabet, the world’s third largest company. The company said Alphabet CEO Larry Page will step down from the role and Google CEO Sundar Pichai will take over at the helm of both companies. Co-founder Sergey Brin will also step down as president of Alphabet and the role will be eliminated. Brin and Page, who became CEO of Alphabet in 2015, said in a blog post that “it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure.”
Last week, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said he is stepping down from the airline in May and will be replaced by President Scott Kirby. Travel website Expedia announced Wednesday that CEO Mark Okerstrom — who took over after Dara Khosrowshahi left in 2017 to head Uber — and CFO Alan Pickerill are stepping down because of a fight over the company’s strategy. Chairman Barry Diller will oversee day-to-day operations while the board focuses on a plan for long-term leadership.
“We are also tracking companies that are demanding accountability in their CEOs’ professional and personal lives. Any behavior unbecoming to a company’s brand is pretty quickly followed by a resignation announcement,” Challenger added.
Challenger said 284 of the CEO exits this year were from public companies, while 1,196 were from the private or government sector.
Soulcycle CEO Melanie Whelan announced her resignation last month and David Levy is stepping down as CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, less than two months into his tenure with the team.
In other C-suite shuffle news, home-sharing start-up Airbnb COO Belinda Johnson said last month she is stepping down but will join the board of directors. The company, which hopes to go public next year, has been navigating regulatory pressure over taxes and rental rules with several city governments, including New York.