High-profile CEO transitions could be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to executive turnover

Excerpted from Financial Post:

A number of prominent companies have decided that now is the time to announce their chief executives will be bowing out.

One of those announcements came Wednesday, when RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust confirmed that founder and chief executive Ed Sonshine will retire next March from his current role to become its non-executive chairman.

RioCan’s planned changing of the guard followed similar announcements by auto-parts manufacturer Magna International Inc., which said Donald Walker would retire at the end of this year, and Air Canada, which said Calin Rovinescu would depart in February.

All three of those CEOs have led their firms for many years and have successors lined up to take their place. However, they are not the only C-suite retirements announced lately. Renewable energy company Boralex Inc. on Wednesday said Patrick Lemaire will depart Dec. 31 and pipeline operator TC Energy Corp. last month announced that Russ Girling would also leave at year-end.

Those announcements could be just the tip of the iceberg, since some executives may stick around to steer their companies through the current crisis, but could leave once the danger has passed.

“I don’t think any CEO would say they’ve had a lot of fun in the last seven or eight months, because they’re probably working 14-, 15-hour days or more every day, seven days a week,” said John Wallace, chief executive of management-search firm Caldwell Partners International Inc.

Wallace is expecting a lot of leadership turnover in the latter part of 2021 and into 2022, since recessions, such as the one caused by COVID-19, generally lead to more resignations and retirements.

“I just think that, intuitively, when you look at the amount of effort and time, you’re going to have a lot of tired leaders coming out of this pandemic and economic downturn,” he said.

CEOs may fancy themselves as tough-talking, hard-charging, Type-A personalities, but they’re likely feeling some of the same stresses other people feel, although they’re compensated for those pressures in a much more handsome fashion.

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