Record Dot-com CEO Departures in October

The ongoing shakeout in the dot-com world has caused a record number of CEOs to depart this month, with nearly six top executives quitting per day during October, according to a survey by an outplacement firm.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the Chicago-based firm which tracks employee movement in the Internet industry, said a record 129 CEO departures were announced in October — a rate of nearly six per day.

In the last three months alone, there were 350 dot-com CEO changes. Since August 1999, when Challenger Gray & Christmas started tracking such data, 1,151 CEOs changed jobs, the survey said.

The 350 CEO departures announced since August were 153 percent higher than the number announced in the same three month period a year ago (138), the survey added.

“CEO turnover in October was up 25 percent from September (103) and up 115 percent from October, 1999, when 60 CEO departures were recorded. The average tenure of exiting CEOs, based on October announcements that identified length of service, was 6.3 years,” it added.

The survey said the dot-com sector led all others, with 25 chief executive departures in October, followed by the service sector with 19 changes and the computer sector with 16.

John Challenger, the tracking firm’s CEO, said the financial performance of some Web-based companies has led to most of the departures. “Months on the job, not years, may be the next measure of performance. There is no hesitation by directors to ask a CEO to leave if there is even the slightest hint that numbers will not be met. Expectations don’t count,” Challenger said.

“Boards apparently have been a lot more anxious to make changes as we approach the end of the year, evidenced by the fact that August, September and October rank two, three and one, respectively, in terms of CEO changes,” he added.

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