C-Suite resignations hit alarming high in 2023 as more executives step down

By Zion Rufus 

2023, so far has seen the trend of high-ranking executives departing their roles in various industries continuing to surge. With numerous executives either announcing their resignations or their intention to step down by year-end, this marks a significant departure from the previous year, setting new records.

A recently released report by Challenger, Gray, and Christmas revealed a staggering 1,425 executive departures within the first nine months of the year, representing a nearly 50% increase compared to the same period in the previous year. This surge in executive turnover also marks the highest recorded figure since the firm began tracking such data in 2002.

“What we are seeing is a reiteration of the fact that nothing stays still. Not all resignations are as a result of a company’s poor performance or other scandalous reasons. Nothing stays still, and neither should you,” said Lanre Basamta, a renowned author and marketing professional told MARKETING EDGE.

“And this isn’t limited to C-suite officials. What I have noticed is that everything moves and changes fast; the business landscape, customer dynamic, consumer trends etc. If the customers and the business environment is changing, why should you stay stuck? So move with the times, pay attention to the trends, learn new knowledge, take new training, and change jobs a few times, just never stay stuck please.”

Notable CEO departures were observed in various companies, including CNN’s Chris Licht, OPay Nigeria’s Olu Akanmu who has stepped down as the Co-Chief Executive Officer (Co-CEO) and President of Opay Nigeria on Monday, 31 July, 2023, and BMW’s Jens Thiemer, who announced his departure via LinkedIn, citing a personal desire to pursue new professional opportunities.

Microsoft’s Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Capossela, will also leave the company after serving for 32 years, aligning with Microsoft’s renewed focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Capossela’s succession had been planned for some time, coinciding with the company’s shift toward the AI era, as explained by Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella.

Costco’s long-serving CEO, Craig Jelinek, will be stepping down, to be succeeded by Ron Vachris, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. In September, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz left the coffee chain’s board, and BP CEO Bernard Looney resigned over personal relationships with colleagues.

The high rate of executive resignations can be attributed, in part, to the dynamic economic landscape. Companies are gearing up for anticipated economic changes, driven by rising labor costs and interest rates, which prompt the search for new leadership.

While some CEOs retired or transitioned into other executive roles, others stepped down due to the completion of interim assignments or a desire to pursue new opportunities.

Camilla Kemp, CEO of M&C Saatchi, announced her departure which took effect in March 2023, following the departure of another C-suite officer, Ben Golik, at the end of 2022.

Twitter CEO Elon Musk revealed plans to step down by the end of 2023, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has also stepped down from her position to focus on family, health, and personal projects.

Additionally, the CEOs of Salesforce and Slack have announced their resignations.

Industries experiencing the most significant CEO turnover included the government and nonprofit sector, with over 350 CEO departures, marking an 85% increase compared to the previous year. The technology sector followed closely, with more than 140 CEOs leaving their positions, representing a nearly 50% increase.

This widespread wave of resignations makes bare the dynamic nature of the business world and the importance of staying agile and responsive to changing trends and environments. As the corporate landscape, customer dynamics, and consumer trends evolve, so do the career trajectories of top executives.

Industry experts have also advised professionals to remain agile, keep up with trends, acquire new knowledge, seek additional training, and consider changing roles to stay aligned with the evolving business world, noting that adaptability, continuous learning, and the willingness to embrace new challenges remain key virtues in navigating the ever-changing business world.

In 2022, Deloitte reported that approximately 70% of high-level executives were contemplating quitting their jobs to improve their emotional well-being.

Last year, over 650 CEOs stepped down from their positions, including notable figures like Meta’s Sheryl Sandberg and Jeff Zucker from CNN. Additionally, the co-CEOs of Jumia Technologies, Sacha Poignonnec and Jeremy Hodara, relinquished their positions. Numerous other executive resignations were observed in companies such as FedEx, Domino’s Pizza, Shell, Gap, American Airlines, Pinterest, and more.

Furthermore, in 2022, Nigeria witnessed a significant wave of C-suite executives and high-paying professionals leaving the country due to economic challenges and worsening insecurity. This trend, known as “japa,” continued into 2023, with thousands of young Nigerians seeking better opportunities abroad.


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