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What CEO Resignations Reveal

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What CEO resignations revealCEO’s often experience overwhelming pressure to perform. Unfortunately, many CEO’s are misaligned with corporate objectives. Some make poor or even fatal decisions under stress, while others allow their character flaws to spin out of control.  When CEO’s sabotage their own best efforts and fail to bring their best selves to the workplace, they can experience untold embarrassment, despair, and untimely resignations. So what do sudden CEO resignations reveal?

Recent CEO Resignations

CEO Resignations 2020

On October 4, 2020, John Donahoe, Nike CEO resigned after a 20-second video emerged on social media of a man in poor shape running sluggishly in Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 36 running shoes. Donahoe stated “Please know I am deeply sorry for the humiliating lack of athleticism on display in this video. No one in Nike gear should ever be breathing heavily and running all hunched over with their arms on their hips like that—never mind the bumbling, lethargic pace. This is not what Nike is about, and I have submitted my resignation.” Donahoe previously served as the CEO of eBay for 10 years.

On September 20, 2020, Trevor Milton, Nikolo founder and CEO announced his resignation following accusations by Hindenburg Research on September 11 that he lied about the company’s technology. According to a Twitter post, Milton’s resignation was at the request of the company’s board of supervisors. Milton is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for misleading investors.

On September 11, 2020, Rio Tinto CEO, Jean-Sébastien Jacques resigned under pressure from investors due to the company’s destruction of a 46,000-year-old sacred Indigenous heritage site in Juukan Gorge in Western Australia in order to expand an iron ore mine. The destruction provoked outrage from the Aboriginal community, politicians, and important stakeholders.

On September 10, 2020, Citigroup Chief Executive Michael Corbat resigned, Under his tenure, grew to almost $20 billion in 2019 from just $7 billion in 2012. Corbat’s early retirement came as federal regulators prepare a formal rebuke to the bank for failing to upgrade its obsolete security technology systems.

On August 26, 2020, TikTok CEO, Kevin Mayer, announced his resignation. Mayer had served as chairman of the Direct-to-Consumer and International Division at Walt Disney prior to being hired as CEO of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance. The former Disney executive had worked at TikTok for just over 100 days. As President Donald Trump’s executive order banned TikTok in the U.S. unless it was sold to another company, Mayer appeared unable to resolve the conflict or reassure American legislators about TikTok’s Chinese ownership.

On August 3, 2020, Ford CEO Jim Hackett resigned after the company’s turnaround plan did not satisfy investors. Hackett will stay on as CEO until October 1. During his three-year tenure as CEO, he realigned the company’s portfolio. Among his accomplishments, Hackett phased out most sedans in order to emphasize SUVs and trucks, and pioneered Ford’s entry into the smart vehicle space with the electric Mustang Mach-E.

On July 27, 2020, Walgreens’ CEO Stefano Pessina announced that he will step down and become executive chairman when the company finds his replacement. In a letter dated July 23, Pessina told board members that he has considered stepping down “for some time, but for the reasons the Board knows, the time was not right to do so.” Pessina has more than 16% ownership of the company.

On July 21, 2020, Jide Zeitlin resigned as the chairman and chief executive of Tapestry Inc., the parent company of Coach and Kate Spade following a board investigation into his personal conduct. According to The Wall Street Journal a woman accused Zeitlin of posing as a photographer and coerced her into romantic relationship around a decade ago. Zeitlin confirmed portions of her accusation in a statement to the Journal.

On July 11, 2020, CEO of tech company Solid8, Michael Lofthouse resigned after he was was filmed berating an Asian American family while they were participating in a birthday party on July 4 at a Carmel, California restaurant. LofthouseHe informed The San Francisco Chronicle that he registered in an anti-racist program and “once again begun my journey back to sobriety.”

On June 9, 2020, Greg Glassman, CrossFit Chief Executive resigned after a week of controversy about his reactions to the nationwide protests against police brutality sparked by George Floyd’s death. Reebok, brand affiliates, and athletes cut ties with the company after a provocative tweet from Glassman and his communication to affiliate gym owners that he wasn’t mourning George Floyd’s death in a subsequent Zoom meeting.

On April 24, 2020, Randall Stephenson, Chief Executive of AT&T announced his resignation on June 30, 2020.  He will continue as Chairman of the media and telecommunications giant until January 2021.  Stephenson had previously been under fire for questionable M&A decisions and operations; the acquisitions of DirectTV for $67 billion and Time Warner for $104 billion, and the unsuccessful takeover of T-Mobile.

On April 4, 2020, Sergio Rivera, CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment resigned only five months into his tenure. According to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Rivera cited disagreement with the board of directors’ decision-making, His predecessor, Gustavo  Antorcha, cited a similar reason for his departure in September 2019.

On February 25, 2020, Robert Iger, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company from 2005 to 2020 announced his immediate resignation as the company’s chief executive. He will continue his role as Executive Chairman until end the end of 2021. It appears Mr. Iger doesn’t want to be involved in daily operations any longer. Wondering why?  Here’s how Robert Iger thinks.

On February 6, Tidjane Thiam, CEO of Credit Suisse resigned after a private investigator spied on a former executive who had joined another bank. An internal investigation cleared Thiam of misconduct, however the scandal impacted the credibility of his leadership.

On February 1, Adam Bierman, CEO and co-founder of MedMen, resigned after downsizing 40 percent of its workforce at the end of 2019. He resided over a sharp reduction in the cannabis company’s share price over the past year.

On January 28, Mandy Ginsberg, Match Group CEO, which owns dating apps such as Tinder and OkCupid, announced that she’s stepping down after 14 years with the company for personal reasons.

CEO Resignations 2019

On December 23, 2019 Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired after a turbulent period in which there were two deadly crashes, delays and setbacks with the 737 Max.  After the first crash, Muilenburg indicated that the pilots were at fault.

On November 3, 2019, McDonald’s Corporation announced that CEO Steve Easterbrook would step down as a result of his consensual relationship with an employee that violated company policy.

On September 25, 2019, Juul CEO Kevin Burns resigned. Burns’ simply took too long to acknowledge the potential health risks of the company’s vaping products.  On September 9, the FDA banned marketing to young users and various flavored-vaping products. Some states have already followed suit.

On September 24, 2019,  WeWork parent, We Company, stated that its controversial founder, Adam Neumann, would step down as CEO amid reports of his predilection for marijuana and over-the-top grandiosity. Investors and others had already raised concerns about the company’s governance and business model.

On March 28, 2019,  Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan resigned due to the widespread sales practices scandal based on opening millions of unauthorized consumer accounts.

On Jan. 23,  2019, Carlos Ghosn resigned as chairman and CEO of Renault, the largest French car maker, on accusations of financial misconduct. Ghosn had served as the CEO of Michelin North America, chairman of AvtoVAZ, chairman and former CEO of Nissan, and chairman of Mitsubishi Motors.

On January 8, 2019, Herbalife’s chief executive Richard Goudis resigned over unspecified comments he made prior to taking the helm contrary to the company’s expense-related policies and business practices. According to the news release, his departure was not due to any issues regarding the company’s financial reporting.

CEO Resignations 2018

On October 2, 2018, Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO stepped down after 25 years with the company. During her 12 year tenure as the CEO, the company experienced 80 percent sales growth. Her exit occurred during concerns about overhauling the U.S. beverage division either by spinning off bottling operations or splitting up the company. Here’s how Indra Nooyi thinks.

On September 10, 2018, Les Moonves, Chairman, President and CEO of US media giant CBS resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct.

On July 17, 2018, Texas Instruments Chief Executive Brian Crutcher resigned due to violations of the company’s code of conduct, less than two months after taking the control of the company. The semiconductor company stated that “the violations are related to personal behavior that is not consistent with our ethics and core values.”

On June 15, 2018, Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes resigned after Holmes and Theranos were charged with fraudulently raising in excess of $700 million from investors. Holmes made numerous misleading statements about the firm’s portable blood analyzer.

On June 1, 2018, Samsonite CEO Ramesh Tainwala resigned after allegations that he padded his resume by falsifying his academic credentials.

On January 27, 2018, Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Finance Chair of the Republican National Committee resigned after dozens of accusations of rape and sexual harassment.

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10 Responses to “What CEO Resignations Reveal”

  1. Bill W says:

    So many examples of mismanagement of power. Thanks.

  2. Mandy says:

    Sounds like that storm Trump was talking about hit pretty hard…These guys say they resigned but more likely they got fired.

  3. Kim Waters says:

    Rosalene, thanks for compiling this list. These leaders do not deserve to be at the helm and remind us to as you say, stay true to ourselves.

  4. Doreen K says:

    How about Carlos Ghosn being charged for the 4th time. Let’s see if power and privilege win over justice this time.

  5. Martin Bolton says:

    Staying true to myself in the face of tough competition is a challenge I struggle with. This post reminds me to make the right decisions not just for the moment but for the long run. Interesting post and very interesting website.

  6. Shelley T says:

    I’ve worked for several questionable CEOs who don’t make the headlines. Too many get away with too much. This article is a reminder that integrity is the first, second, third quality that leaders must maintain. Thanks for taking the time to do the research.

  7. Brian Jackson says:

    Just saw the documentary about Elizabeth Holmes and her Theranos caper. Glad you included her. Great post. Keep them coming.

  8. John Carpin says:

    As a fortune 1000 C-level professional, I have worked for great CEO’s and others who I did not admire. This post tells it as it is. Thanks.

  9. Harold J says:

    Great article. You get to the heart of leadership, both personal and business. If you don’t put your best self in charge, you pay the price.

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