What happens after a legendary CEO departs?

Find out in our latest CEO Success study

For 19 years, Strategy& has been analyzing CEO succession at the world’s 2,500 largest public companies.

In this year’s report, we look into what happens at companies experiencing transitions from long-serving CEOs.

In addition, we share our annual analysis of CEO turnover and the 2018 incoming class of CEOs.

2018 CEO Success Study: Succeeding the long-serving legend in the corner office

Duration of video: 00:01:10

Key findings

The legacy of long serving CEOs
Long-serving CEOs generally deliver higher shareholder returns than shorter-serving CEOs and are typically succeeded by insiders in a planned succession. However, we find that these successor CEOs significantly underperform and are much more likely to be forced out of office.
Turnover rate soars
Turnover among CEOs at the world’s 2,500 largest companies soared to a record high of 17.5% in 2018 — 3 percentage points higher than the 14.5% rate in 2017 and above what has been the norm for the last decade.
Slow progress for women
The share of incoming women CEOs was 4.9% in 2018. This is down slightly from the all-time high of 6% in 2017, but it continues an upward trend from the low point of 1% in 2008.
Ethical lapses on the rise
The overall rate of forced turnovers was in line with recent trends, at 20%. But the reasons that CEOs were fired in 2018 were different. For the first time in the study’s history, more CEOs were dismissed for ethical lapses than for financial performance or board struggles.

Explore 19 years of CEO changes

Using the drop-down menus below, choose a region or industry to compare turnover rates across years.

Turnover rate
Type: Planned Forced M&A


BRIC economies include Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

U.S./Canada economies include the United States and Canada

Other Emerging economies include Egypt, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Turkey, and Vietnam

Other Mature economies include Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, and Korea

Western Europe economies include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Guernsey, Ireland, Italy, Jersey, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom



Note: “Mature” countries are defined as per the U.N. Development Programme 2018 ranking of countries with "very high human development" (human development index >0.80); all others are “emerging” countries


Communication Services includes the following industry groups: telecommunication services and media & entertainment

Consumer Discretionary includes the following industry groups: automobiles & components, consumer durables & apparel, consumer services, and retailing

Consumer Staples includes the following industry groups: food & staples retailing, food, beverage & tobacco, and household & personal products

Energy includes the following industry subgroups: energy equipment & services, oil, gas & consumable fuels

Financials includes the following industry groups: banks, diversified financials, insurance, and real estate

Health Care includes the following industry groups: health care equipment & services and pharmaceuticals, biotechnology & life sciences

Industrials includes the following industry groups: capital goods, commercial & professional services, and transportation

Information Technology includes the following industry groups: software & services, technology hardware & equipment, semiconductors & semiconductor equipment

Materials includes the following industry subgroups: chemicals, construction materials, containers & packaging, metals & mining, and paper & forest products

Utilities includes the following industry subgroups: electric utilities, gas utilities, multi-utilities, water utilities, and independent power and renewable electricity producers



Note: Prior to 2017, Health Care was included in the Consumer Discretionary sector

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