Getting Focused—The Communicator’s Role When a CEO Fails

Publication Date: 2003, Winter

Source: SO02 Public Relations Strategist
Product Code: 6K-010316
Organization/Author/Firm: William Macintosh
Specialization(s): Crisis Management / Investor Relations / Leadership
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These days CEO failures and firings have become a daily occurrence. According to Chief Executive magazine, in the early 1970s, only about 10 percent of CEOs left large, publicly traded companies under pressure. By the early 1990s, that figure had climbed to 23 percent.

According to recent research, 181 CEOs vacated their jobs in the third quarter of 2002. Average tenure for a CEO is now fewer than five years.

Corporate Board Member magazine stated that most of the CEO firings “often boil down to board members’ failure to oversee the selection of the right corporate leader in the first place.”

That tough analysis brought back memories of several CEO successions I have lived through, all more or less successful. More to the point, it made me focus on the biggest CEO debacle of my career, and ask yet again: What went wrong — and why? What role, if any, can we as communicators play to mitigate the damage a failed CEO succession inflicts on a company?