Vast Majority of CEO Turnovers at World’s Largest Companies Are Planned and Vast Majority of New CEOs Are Promoted from Within, According to New Strategy& Study

Over 70% of 2013 CEO Turnovers Were Planned, Compared with Around 50% in 2000s; Percentage of 2013 Incoming CEOs Who Already Worked at the Company Climbed to 76%

The vast majority—70%—of CEO turnovers at the world’s largest 2,500 public companies in 2013 were planned events, as opposed to forced turnovers or the result of mergers, and 76% of incoming CEOs were “insiders” who were promoted from within the company, according to the newly released 2013 Chief Executive Study from Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company).

“The high proportion of planned turnovers is a strong signal that companies are continuing to take an active, considered approach to putting in place new leadership,” said Gary L. Neilson, Senior Partner at Strategy& and co-author of the 14th annual global Chief Executive Study, which examines trends and patterns among incoming and outgoing CEOs of the world’s 2,500 largest public companies. The current study looks at women CEOs over the past 10 years as well as overall succession trends with a focus on 2013’s incoming class of CEOs.

CEO turnover at the world’s largest companies in 2013 decreased slightly to 14.4% from 15.0% in 2012—well within the range of turnover generally expected during non-recession periods. “While the CEO succession rates in the Middle East continue to be higher than the global average, we have seen a meaningful decline this year in this region as well and are now approaching the global levels” said Per-Ola Karlsson, Senior Partner at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company), co-author of the report and the Managing Director of Dubai.

The study’s findings also suggest that the “global CEO” as commonly thought of is a rarity–the trend seems to be “local” and “native.” In addition to the fact that 76% of new CEOs in 2013 were insiders (compared with 71% in 2012):

  • 80% were nationals of the same country as the company’s headquarters
  • 65% did not have experience working abroad

“Companies continue to select CEOs who are familiar faces, particularly when it comes to nationality and international experience, suggesting that the ‘global CEO’ is more mythical than real,” said Karlsson.

Other notable study findings:

  • The median age of incoming CEOs was 53.
  • CEO tenure has remained relatively steady over the past five years – but rose slightly in 2013 to the 14-year median of five years.

The study includes two other findings that illuminate what companies are looking for in a CEO. First, the percentage of CEOs appointed with joint CEO/Chairman titles decreased for the third straight year to an all-time low of 9%.

“The fact that joint appointments as CEO and chairman is at a low level is a sign of good governance, reflecting increased accountability and decreased conflict of interest,” Neilson said.

Second, the share of CEOs with MBA degrees has increased to 28% in 2013 from 19% in 2003—a rise of nearly 50% over 10 years and a trend the study’s authors expect to continue.

To view the full report summary, visit

About the 2013 Chief Executive Study

For 14 years, Strategy& has examined CEO turnover and the incoming class of CEOs at the world’s largest 2,500 public companies, because determining what happens at critical decision points can help us understand what companies are looking for in their CEO and how the role is changing. Along with overall succession trends, this year’s study looks at 2013’s incoming class of CEOs, and also focuses on women CEOs over the last 10 years.

This study defines the world’s 2,500 largest public companies by their market capitalization as of January 1, 2013, according to Bloomberg. Each company that appeared to have changed its CEO was investigated for confirmation that a change occurred in 2013, and additional details were sought for both the outgoing and incoming CEOs.