CEO Turnover Spikes

Volatility in the economy does not necessarily lead to volatility in the C-suite.

The number of CEOs leaving their posts rose in March after turnover hit a five-year low the previous month, according to a report by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

In March 114 CEO departures were announced, up 39% from the 82 chief executive changes recorded in February. Even so, March CEO departures were 7.3% lower than the same month in 2008, when 123 CEOs left their posts. This marks the third-consecutive year-over-year decline in monthly CEO departures.

Overall, 309 CEO changes were announced in the first quarter, down 16.7% from the year-earlier period. Thats the fewest CEO exits since the fourth quarter of 2005 when 308 chief executives left their posts, according to the report.

"Apparently, volatility in the economy does not necessarily lead to volatility in the C-suite," says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "While 309 CEO changes is not insignificant, it is well below last years record pace, despite the fact that the 2009 economy is off to a much rockier start than in 2008. Companies may be attempting to maintain more stability at the highest ranks, hoping that the continuity will help get them through this downturn."

Resignations accounted for most CEO exits in March (31) and represented the most common reason for departure so far this year (88). Another 77 CEOs stepped down this year.

Seven CEOs have been fired or removed from their positions by their boards of directors, down from the year-ago period when 13 CEOs were fired.

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