According to Forbes, as of November, 1,480 chief executives had left their posts, up 12% year-to-date and 9% from the same month in 2008, the last time such a record had been set. Here, in our judgment, are the biggest departures of all, arranged in chronological order and according to the months in which they were announced.
After just 22 months manning PG&E, Geisha Williams stepped down on January 13. Her departure came as the California power company faced some $30 billion in potential liabilities related to its roles in at least 17 major wildfires since 2017.
Less than three years after being appointed chief executive of Wells Fargo, Timothy Sloan abruptly stepped down on March 28. A 31-year veteran of the financial institution, he had been given an impossible task, restoring the embattled bank’s reputation.
When John Flint was tapped to head HSBC, the board of directors considered him the safe choice for the job, but 18 months later, on August 5, he was sacked – apparently for the very same reason. In a presentation to investors that day, chairman Mark Tucker said: “In the increasingly complex and challenging global environment in which the bank operates, the board believes that a change is needed to make the most of the significant opportunities ahead of us.”
Steve Easterbrook was fired as CEO of McDonald’s after an internal investigation revealed that he had violated a corporate policy by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee. Since rising to the helm in 2015, he had established partnerships with Uber Eats and DoorDash and invested hundreds of millions in tech-startup acquisitions, doubling the fast-food giant’s share price in the process.
In an open letter published on December 3, Alphabet CEO Larry Page—and President Sergey Brin, with whom he had co-founded Google in 2008 and its parent company in 2015—announced his exit, writing, “If the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost . . . we believe it’s time to assume the role of proud parents.” His departure comes at a turbulent time, as the tech titan weathers an antitrust investigation and internal dissent among employees, whose most recent walkout protested the administrative leave forced on two activist workers.