What happens after a legendary CEO departs?

Find out in our latest CEO Success study

For 19 years, Strategy& has been analyzing CEO succession at the world’s 2,500 largest public companies.

In this year’s report, we look into what happens at companies experiencing transitions from long-serving CEOs.

In addition, we share our annual analysis of CEO turnover and the 2018 incoming class of CEOs.

2018 CEO Success Study: Succeeding the long-serving legend in the corner office

Duration of video: 00:01:10

Key findings

The legacy of long serving CEOs
Long-serving CEOs generally deliver higher shareholder returns than shorter-serving CEOs and are typically succeeded by insiders in a planned succession. However, we find that these successor CEOs significantly underperform and are much more likely to be forced out of office.
Turnover rate soars
Turnover among CEOs at the world’s 2,500 largest companies soared to a record high of 17.5% in 2018 — 3 percentage points higher than the 14.5% rate in 2017 and above what has been the norm for the last decade.
Slow progress for women
The share of incoming women CEOs was 4.9% in 2018. This is down slightly from the all-time high of 6% in 2017, but it continues an upward trend from the low point of 1% in 2008.
Ethical lapses on the rise
The overall rate of forced turnovers was in line with recent trends, at 20%. But the reasons that CEOs were fired in 2018 were different. For the first time in the study’s history, more CEOs were dismissed for ethical lapses than for financial performance or board struggles.


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Per-Ola Karlsson

Partner, Strategy& Middle East

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