HP’s former CEO Leo Apotheker is the latest high-profile executive to make an early exit. The truth is, CEOs aren’t sticking around as long as they used to. Research shows that the average tenure for a CEO is 6.6 years, compared to 8.1 years a decade ago. That figure dips even lower for external hires, who on average keep their jobs for just 4.1 years.
We looked into some of the most high-profile CEOs who left their jobs early — inspired by other lists, such as this one from Investing Answers — to create our own, ordered from longest-to-shortest-serving executives.
CEO from: Jan. 2009 - Sept. 2011
By now, we all know the story of how Bartz was fired over the phone earlier this month -- and how she fired back at the Yahoo board.
CEO from: March 2006 - Sept. 2008
During Schoonover's time at the helm, Circuit City weathered its worst year financially, with losses topping out at $300 million. The extreme plight became especially devastating, as the record fiscal failure warded off prospective buyers.
Schoonover was unable to build up the electronics retailer, and under his leadership it fell further than it ever had before. He was even a finalist for Worst CEO of the Year, as judged by MarketWatch, which cited Circuit City's 70% stock tumble under his reign.
CEO from: July 2004 - Jan. 2007
In Rollins' final year at the company, Dell lost its lead in PC market share to rival Hewlett-Packard, and revenues landed below analysts' expectations.
This was disappointing, especially since in the years before he took the CEO post, Rollins was even considered a co-leader of the firm -- alongside founder Michael Dell, who resumed the CEO job after Rollins left.
CEO from: Jan. 2009 - May 2011
Norman, the former president of MTV, took her post atop Oprah Winfrey's much-anticipated network about two years before it actually hit the air.
Winfrey built up her latest venture and appeared to be wholly confident in Norman's leadership, keeping the former MTV exec on board through the launch early this year. But the OWN Network has widely been considered a flop, not garnering nearly as much attention or traction as Winfrey expected.
Several of its shows have been poorly received and canceled, and in May -- just four months after the network went live -- Winfrey decided the network would be better off without Norman.
Winfrey eventually named herself Norman's replacement.
CEO from: July 1999 - October 2001
United Airlines was struggling well before terrorists used his company's aircrafts on September 11, 2001 (Goodwin was ousted one month later).
He couldn't execute a merger with US Airways, and labour disputes canceled a whopping 26,000 flights in the summer of 2000. He also oversaw a settlement with striking pilots that helped send industry costs skyward.
CEO from: July 1996 - June 1998
Dunlap was famously nicknamed 'Chainsaw' for his tough persona.
During his tenure, he drove Sunbeam into the ground -- and the company never recovered and eventually went bankrupt. Insiders suspected accounting fraud, and Dunlap was banned from serving as CEO of a public company ever again.
CEO from: Sept. 1998 - Feb. 2000
Jager rose through the ranks at Proctor & Gamble, where he started out as a recent college grad and eventually ended as CEO.
An aggressive restructuring plan implemented by Jager sought to introduce new products, close plants, and eliminate jobs to streamline the company's operations and boost the bottom line. Instead, the household goods giant saw profits plummet dramatically.
CEO from: Feb. 1996 - July 1997
Gil Amelio came to Apple during a rough time for the company in the mid-90s. He was bright, tech-savvy, and ready to help Apple flourish again.
But it didn't quite turn out that way. Despite initially winning over colleagues by rejecting a buyout offer from another company, Apple eventually laid off 3,000 people and suffered a $700 million loss -- one of the largest ever recorded by a Silicon Valley Company.
Amelio tried to capitalise on his ouster by writing On the Firing Line: My 500 Days at Apple.
CEO from: Dec. 2003 - March 2005
Stonecipher emerged from retirement to head up Boeing, where he'd previously worked from 1997 until 2002.
But it turned out Stonecipher couldn't hold himself back either -- his months-long affair with a female Boeing executive came to light and jeopardized his post. In the end, company leadership decided the 67-year-old's secret relationship caused too many concerns about Stonecipher's judgment and his ability to carry out his duties.
Stonecipher's disgraced exit from Boeing sent his distinguished career in the aerospace industry into a downward spiral.
CEO from: Jan. 2009 - March 2011
In her time at the helm of National Public Radio, Schiller saw her share of controversy.
Correspondent Juan Williams was unceremoniously let go after ranting about Muslims on Fox News, which NPR called a hit to its credibility. Schiller was then caught by conservative activists in a bizarre video sting where she spoke unfavorably about the Tea Party.
In a climate where NPR has to fight relentlessly for government funding, it wasn't a surprise that the NPR board forced her out of her post.
CEO from: Sept. 2010 - Sept. 2011
Leo Apotheker came to HP from SAP AG, where he served as CEO for only 10 months and oversaw the first major job cuts since the company launched.
His tenure at HP was just as rocky. It included product launch failures (the Touchpad was pulled after just seven weeks), public relations disasters (including a confusing 'media strategy day') and earnings announcements failures.
Now the board is placing its faith in former eBay CEO Meg Whitman.
CEO from: April 2009 - Feb. 2010
Owen Van Natta was the COO of Facebook before leading online music startup Project Playlist. He seemed a natural fit for the top job at MySpace.
But that wasn't the case.
Van Natta vacated his position in less than a year's time, with MySpace being virtually no better off than it was when he started. rumours swirled upon his exit that he had been trying to get fired to get out of the foundering company.
CEO from: March 2009 - Dec. 2009
Henderson took over as GM CEO after President Obama called for Rick Wagoner to step down during the auto bailout crisis.
But Henderson didn't prove a very good choice. He wasn't flexible in working with the GM board and he didn't execute to their liking. By not building a partnership there, his chances for a successful future at the auto company crashed and burned.
CEO from: Jan. 2010 - Sept. 2010
Whitacre was known as the 'GM Reaper' for killing off brands post-bankruptcy.
He pulled up the company's financials, and prepared the company for its IPO. But once that time came, prospective investors wanted a long-term CEO who could steer the company in a new direction. Whitacre wasn't the guy for that.
Before taking the job, he famously said, 'I don't know anything about cars.'
CEO from: Sept. 2010 - Feb. 2011
Jack Griffin's shockingly short tenure atop the magazine powerhouse Time Inc. was fraught with alleged controversy.
Apparently, Griffin made too many references to his being Roman Catholic (including comparing the company to the Vatican) and possibly make off-colour or sexist comments. He also ruffled feathers the usual way, by dumping money into consultants to help in a restructuring effort, and insisting his name appear prominently atop Time Inc. magazines' mastheads.
Of course, Griffin maintains he did a fine job and was reportedly 'stunned' when the board demanded his resignation. He asked for 24 hours to consider his options, sources said, but his bosses firmly said no.
CEO from: June 2008 - Sept. 2008
Willumstad, a former Citigroup executive, saw A.I.G.'s shares drop 97% during his short tenure. He was forced out once the federal government took control of the company -- which eventually accepted $182 billion in bailout funds -- and was largely blamed for the financial crisis of 2008.
It was the second time in three years that A.I.G. ousted a leader.
CEO from: Sept. 8 - 26, 2008
Fishman took over Washington Mutual from Kerry K. Killinger, who led the company for 18 years, once the firm was collapsing amidst the financial crisis. In the wake of Lehman Brothers, the government arranged for JPMorgan to take over WaMu -- and Fishman was out of a job.
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