Confirmation this week that Roger Ailes has departed from his perch as CEO of 21st Century Fox's (FOXA) Fox News and Fox Business Network Channel over accusations of sexual harassment and news Biogen's (BIIB - Get Report) CEO George Scangos has stepped down highlights an active year for CEOs changing or leaving positions.
While Ailes, 76, isn't head of the entire media company, his leaving does highlight the pressure public companies are under to remove top-ranking and C-suite executives when that person suddenly becomes a liability.
In total, the number of CEO departures (including announced departures) from U.S. companies and government or nonprofit organizations rose 6% to 624 through the first half of 2016, compared to the first six months of 2015, according to a report out by Challenger Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based executive outplacement firm.
"The No. 1 reason that CEOs leave is company performance. There's a very clear scorecard," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray & Christmas in a phone interview. "When earnings and stock prices are down, the executive team can try to explain how external business conditions or other uncontrollable factors lead to the decline. However, when the problems persist, shareholders or the board are more likely to conclude that the issues are not incidental. If the problems are perceived as long-term or as not being addressed, the CEO is typically held accountable."
Poor performance isn't the only reason why CEOs depart. The majority of exiting CEOs this year gave "resigned" or "retired" as their official reasons for departure, according to the report. Sixty-eight executives left to take positions with other companies and 19 of those as chief executive, while 25 CEOs were ousted from their positions, among other reasons, the report said.
In addition, nine company CEOs have been removed over company bankruptcy or financial losses or due to a scandal. To be fair, not all of the CEOs on this list are leaving on a bad note.
The below list includes CEOs who have exited or announced their exits at public companies in 2016 with market caps of approximately $10 billion or more. (Of note, some CEOs on this list have become chairman.)
Market Cap: $9.9 billion
Year-to-date return: -8.1%
Xerox (XRX - Get Report) is undergoing a transformation and plans to split into two publicly traded companies: Xerox, a document technology company and, Conduent, a business processing outsourcing company.
When the split is complete, Ursula Burns will step down from the CEO position of Xerox and Jeffrey Jacobson, 56, will replace her. The split is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Burns will remain as chairman of Xerox after the split, but the company expects her to retire as chairman as of the 2017 annual shareholders' meeting, according to a May 20 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Jacobson joined the company in 2012 and currently serves as president of Xerox Technology.
Burns, 58, is a lifelong Xerox employee. She started out as an intern in 1980 at the Norwalk, Conn.-based company and worked her way up the ranks over the years. Burns was named chief executive of Xerox in 2009 and added the chairman position in 2010.
Burns' total target compensation for 2015 was $10.6 million, according to Xerox's proxy filing.
Following the transition, Burns' base salary will be $900,000 per year. In addition, Burns' "target bonus will be 150% of her base salary and her 2017 long term incentive award value will be a maximum of $5 million, each of which will be prorated based on the length of time she serves as Chairman in 2017," the company said in the May 20 filing.
Ashok Vemuri, who joined Xerox on July 1, will become the CEO of Conduent once the split is complete. He currently serves as CEO of Xerox Business Services and is an executive vice president of the company.
Market Cap: $10.9 billion
Year-to-date return: 1.5%
Macy's (M - Get Report) has been faced with sagging sales and stiff competition from the likes of Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) and off-price retailers. The New York-based department store chain recently said Chairman and CEO Terry Lundgren would step down from the chief executive role but continue as executive chairman of the company. Macy's President Jeff Gennette will replace Lundgren as CEO. The CEO transition will take place in the first quarter of 2017, the company said in June.
Lundgren, 64, has been CEO of Macy's since 2003 and chairman since 2004. With the exception of a six-year stint at Neiman Marcus, Lundgren has spent most of his retailing career working for Federated Department Stores, which acquired Macy's in 1994.
Gennette, currently Macy's president, began his career in 1983 as an executive trainee at Macy's West division in San Francisco and has worked in a variety of positions with increasing responsibility and locations within the Macy's footprint, the company said.
Lundgren's compensation last year totaled approximately $11.7 million, which includes the fair value for performance-based restricted stock awards "using a weighted average grant date price of $61.51 per share," the proxy filing said. As well stock option awards also used a grant date value.
His compensation as chairman will be decided in early 2017, according to a spokesman.
Market Cap: $12.6 billion
Year-to-date return: 25%
John G. Russell, a three-decade employee at CMS Energy (CMS - Get Report) , just officially retired from the CEO position on July 1, but remains as chairman of the Jackson, Mich.-based energy company.
Russell, 58, served as president and CEO as well as the head of its subsidiary Consumers Energy since May 2010. He became chairman of the board for CMS and Consumers Energy in May 2016.
CMS Energy promoted Patricia Kessler Poppe as its new chief executive and as the head of its utility. Previously Poppe, 47, was senior vice president distribution operations, engineering and transmission for Consumers Energy. Poppe was responsible for the company's electric and natural gas distribution systems, energy operations and electric transmission, the company said in a January announcement about the succession plan.
Consumers Energy is Michigan's largest electric and natural gas utility and serves 6.7 million customers of the state's 10 million residents, according to its Web site.
Russell's compensation for 2015 totaled approximately $10.3 million, which includes changes to pension value and deferred compensation earnings as well as grant date fair value of stock awards, according to the company's most recent proxy filing.
Market Cap: $12.5 billion
Year-to-date return: 19.9%
Michael Brown stepped down from his roles as president and chief executive at Symantec (SYMC) in April at the same time the cyber-security company cut its sales and earnings forecasts for its fiscal fourth quarter and said it plans to focus exclusively on the cybersecurity business.
Brown, who has been CEO for 18 months (following a six-month stint as interim CEO), will stay on until a successor is found, the company said in an April statement.
Brown's departure follows the sale of its Veritas storage division in January to the Carlyle Group (CG - Get Report) . Company management said in April it was already discussing a CEO change before the latest quarterly results came in to find a candidate with "experience running a cyber-security company or in selling software as a service, an area Symantec is focusing on more as it moves away from selling antivirus software that's installed directly on customers' computers," according to Bloomberg. However, analysts called the move a surprise.
Symantec created a new Office of the President and named Ajei Gopal, who rejoined the company as its interim president and COO, while the CEO search commences. The group also includes CFO Thomas Seigert and Scott Taylor, Symantec's general counsel and secretary. The Office of the President will remain in place until a new CEO is found.
Brown's compensation for fiscal 2015 totaled $16.3 million, according a proxy filing in September 2015. The figure was partly based on the fair value of restricted stock awards granted and target awards for performance-related units.
According to Symantec's most recent proxy filing, Brown's severance if there is a "termination without cause," (based on a qualifying termination as of April 3, 2015) includes $7.5 million in severance pay, COBRA health insurance premiums totaling $35,910 and performance-based restricted stock vesting of $2.66 million.
In an April 8-K filing, the company said he is entitled to receive "certain cash severance and equity acceleration benefits for termination without cause" as per his employment agreement.
Market Cap: $15.4 billion
Year-to-date return: 15.5%
Keith Nosbusch stepped down from leading the daily management of Rockwell Automation (ROK - Get Report) on July 1. Nosbusch, 65, had been the industrial automation company's president and CEO since 2004. He was named chairman in 2005 and will remain in that post even after departing as CEO.
Blake Moret, a 30-year company veteran and most recently its senior vice president of Control Products & Solutions, was promoted to Rockwell Automation's next president and chief executive.
Nosbusch's compensation for the company's fiscal 2015 totaled $8.6 million, according to a proxy filing in December 2015. The figure included the fair value of restricted stock awards granted using a price of $115.69 per share in 2015. As well, the grant date fair value of option awards included for Nosbusch and other executive officers' compensation was $26.66 per share in 2015.
"Mr. Nosbusch will remain employed by the Company on a full time basis with compensatory arrangements to be determined by the Compensation Committee of the Board before July 1, 2016," an 8-K filing announcing the CEO change said. "Among other responsibilities, Mr. Nosbusch will continue to lead the Board and support Mr. Moret in his transition to the Chief Executive Officer role."
Market Cap: $17.7 billion
Year-to-date return: 23.8%
In early March the Orrville, Ohio-based food company said Richard Smucker, its chief executive for the past five years, would become executive chairman, while his nephew Mark Smucker would become its next president and CEO. The change was effective May 1.
Richard Smucker, 68, has been CEO of the fruit spread and ice cream toppings company since 2011. He was co-CEO along with Timothy Smucker, 72, from 2001 to 2011 at which time the latter Smucker executive became its chairman. Timothy Smucker is now the company's chairman emeritus.
Mark Smucker, 46, is the son of Timothy Smucker. He'd been president of the consumer and natural foods unit since April 2015, but served in leadership roles in various parts of the company since 2004.
Richard Smucker's compensation for the company's fiscal 2016 year (ended April 30) was $7.2 million, according to its proxy filing. Included in his compensation was a holiday bonus of 2% of his annual base pay, the filing said. As well, stock awards reflected aggregate grant date fair value while option awards have an exercise price of $111.86, the fair market value of the company's common stock on grant date.
Delta Air Lines
Market Cap: $28.8 billion
Year-to-date return: -24%
Delta Air Lines (DAL - Get Report) CEO Richard Anderson retired suddenly this year after nine years heading up the airline to become the Atlanta-based company's executive chairman replacing Dan Carp. Anderson, 61, is succeeded by Ed Bastian, who was Delta's president. The transition was officially completed in early May.
Anderson has spent nearly 30 years in the aviation industry, employed early on at the former Continental Airlines. From there he moved to Northwest Airlines for 14 years through 2004. Anderson was CEO for Northwest from 2001 to 2004. He joined Delta in September 2007 at perhaps one of the worst times in the industry's history, according to Forbes, "just three months after Delta emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and less than a year before the whole industry nearly collapsed in the economic meltdown of 2008."
Bastian came to work at Delta in 1998 but left in 2005. He rejoined the company later that year as its CFO. Bastian was the company's chief restructuring officer through Delta's bankruptcy filing, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Anderson's estimated 2015 compensation was approximately $15.8 million, according to Delta's proxy filing. However the company noted that Anderson's designated $7.7 million in stock awards and $3.8 million in option awards "do not represent amounts of the named executive officers received or are entitled to receive." Rather the reported amounts represent the aggregate fair value of the awards on grant date.
Market Cap: $57.8 billion
Year-to-date return: 12%
Stephen Chazen officially retired as president and CEO of Occidental Petroleum (OXY - Get Report) in April 2016. Chazen, 69, held the position for the past five years and will continue as a strategic adviser to the Houston-based oil and gas exploration and production company. He has been an employee of the company since 1994 and a director since 2010.
Vicki Hollub has taken over the role of chief executive after being promoted to senior executive vice president of Occidental and president of Oxy Oil and Gas. Occidental Petroleum announced the succession plan in May 2015.
Chazen's compensation in 2015 totaled approximately $6.8 million, according to the company's proxy filing. The figure included the fair value of stock awards at grant date, however the ultimate payout value may be significantly less than the amount shown, the filing said.
Market Cap: $66.1 billion
Year-to-date return: 4.5%
Darren Huston was ousted from the CEO position at Priceline (PCLN) in late April after an internal investigation linked the executive to a personal relationship that he had with an employee who was not under his direct supervision.
"The investigation determined that Mr. Huston had acted contrary to the Company's Code of Conduct and had engaged in activities inconsistent with the Board's expectations for executive conduct, which Mr. Huston acknowledged and for which he expressed regret," the online travel company said in a release.
Huston, 50, had been CEO of Priceline since January 2014. He also left his position as CEO of Booking.com, a subsidiary of Priceline. Priceline appointed Jeffery Boyd, its former CEO and current chairman, as the company's interim CEO until a replacement is found. Its COO Gillian Tans was named as CEO of Booking.com.
Huston will not be entitled to severance payment, according to the April 2016 8-K filing announcing his separation, with the exception of "pro rata vesting based on time served of his outstanding equity awards," the filing said. In addition, Huston was to receive unpaid base salary through the end of his employment, compensation for accrued vacation, expense reimbursements and vested pension benefits, the separation letter said.
Priceline will also pay for "the cost of reasonable relocation expenses" to North America. Huston will also be required to abide by Priceline's non-compete, non-solicitation and proprietary information covenants within his employment agreement, the filing said.
Huston's compensation for 2015 totaled $15 million, according to the company's proxy filing, comprised primarily of $14 million in stock awards valued at grant date. "The amounts in this column reflect our estimate of the payout for these awards, as of the date of grant, and do not correspond to the actual value, if any, that will be recognized by the named executive officers," it said.