Retensa’s Top 10 “Biggest Quits” of 2008
Annual review of the most significant voluntary resignations in the United States.
New York, NY, January, 2009 – 2008 will be remembered for many things, including unprecedented changes in many organizations as a result of the economic upheaval that still continues. For some, change is welcome. For others, it casts additional uncertainty. Some organizations are laying off workers for the first time. Most firms placed a moratorium on hiring. With job security low, and an “every man for himself” attitude, several firms experienced shake-ups in their top ranks. By November, CEO turnover surpassed 2007’s total, and was on track to break 2006’s record high. As the interlaced economy continues to unravel, dealing with unexpected change will be harder than ever. Stability is the new currency, so this year’s list arrives as timely as ever. Accordingly, we present the annual publication of Retensa’s Top 10 “Biggest Quits” and the most influential turnover stories of 2008.
Criteria: Only U.S.-based departures qualify for inclusion on Retensa’s official “Biggest Quits” List. To make The Top 10, Retensa applies three criteria: (1) the magnitude of impact in the individuals’ industry or field, (2) the financial loss or loss of influence of the enduring organization, and (3) the degree to which the enduring organization is unprepared to respond.
Eliot Spitzer (Governor): New York State
While serving as New York State Attorney General and subsequently as governor, Eliot Spitzer was known as a paragon of virtue. After all, he led the campaign to clean up conflicts of interest on Wall Street and bring down the Gambino crime family. That reputation was permanently altered on March 17th, 2008, when Spitzer quit both his governorship and presumably, having affairs with high priced call girls. Following his departure, little-known David Paterson was hurriedly sworn in as Governor. Paterson must now deal with the empire sized issues of New York’s largest budget deficit, an exodus from upstate, job implosions downstate, restoring the reputation of Governor in the wake of an unexpected start.
As individuals and companies scramble to preserve their assets, stability will be 2009’s critical success factor. Like water, we miss it most when it is gone. And like water, it ebbs and flows as man attempts to control it. When leaders leave, the instability forces organizations to scramble for focus and direction. If an organization is unprepared for the departure of key players the repercussions can be severe. In preparing this year’s list, a theme emerged across the varying industries we cover. Many departures reflect the stakeholder’s release of ownership. Some owned property, others owned companies, or parts of history. At some point, they each let go of the idea that it was theirs. Therefore, they no longer needed to preserve its outcomes. They were each big quits, but are still just a few of the many that resigned last year. Turnover is an all too common occurrence. Fortunately, approximately 94% of turnover is preventable. If employee issues exist, it is often rooted in their lack of ownership to the outcomes of the organization. Building retention programs at every level will ensure that intellectual capital, relationship capital, and financial capital are preserved.
No. 1 Defaulting Homeowners: The United States Economy After banks handed out billions in sub-prime mortgages for homes people could not afford, millions of families “quit” being homeowners. As a result, the global economy entered its worst crisis since at least the Great Depression, perhaps forever. Financial institutions recorded massive losses, and at least 100 mortgage corporations were shut down, sold, or suspended business. Major financial institutions, including Bear Stearns, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, and Washington Mutual were...read more
No. 2 Jerry Yang (CEO), Brad Garlinghouse (SVP of Communications & Communities), and Qi Lu (EVP of Engineering for Search and Advertising Technology Group): Yahoo! Nothing says “organizational stability” like a shakeup in top management. Yahoo’s yodel is a little softer after the loss of founder and CEO Jerry Yang, and Vice Presidents Brad Garlinghouse and Qi Lu. In this trifecta, the culprit was their competing vision of the future. On one side, Yang opposed the fire sale to Microsoft and supported expansion, at the other end is...read more
No. 3 Brett Favre (Quarterback): Green Bay Packers Favre saddened and shocked cheeseheads everywhere when he announced his retirement on March 4th, following one of his most successful seasons. Although some claim that Favre’s departure was not a critical loss because of replacement Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers were no where to be found after week 17, finishing 6-10. In his last year with Green Bay, Favre started all 16 games and led the Pack to a 13-3 season and the NFC championship game. During his career at Green Bay, Favre started...read more
No. 4 Christie Hefner (President and CEO): Playboy Enterprises After 20 years of leadership at the bunny that “Hef” built, Christie Hefner announced her resignation as President and CEO of Playboy Enterprises. She took the reigns from her legendary father in 1988 and re-ignited the iconic brand when Playboy was suffering from mismanaged investments in casinos and the Playboy Clubs. No easy act to follow herself, Ms. Hefner grew the organization into a global multimedia brand, with success in licensing and television. She cited her long tenure...read more
No. 5 Marcus Brauchli (Managing Editor): Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company Newsflash: Managing editor quits global newspaper and starts top position at major competitor. Marcus Brauchli resigns. Leaves Wall Street Journal after 24 years of service. Accepts position at Washington Post. Disputes between Brauchli and new owner Rupert Murdoch, self-named managing editor, are likely to blame. Brauchli quits being in the middle of editing staff and the corporate regime. Word on the street: Brauchli will be a loss to WSJ, as he was...read more
If there’s something to sell, to your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Meg Whitman. After joining eBay a decade ago, she stepped down from the organization synonymous with online auctions this year. Whitman once stated that she would not remain in her position for more than 10 years, and on March 31 she fulfilled her promise. During her tenure, eBay grew from a US-based, 500,000 user and $4.4 million tchotchkie store to a worldwide clearinghouse with hundreds of millions of users and $7.7 billion in annual revenue. Newly appointed CEO John...read more
No. 8 Sallie Krawcheck (Head of Wealth Management Division): Citigroup On September 22, Krawcheck, once heralded as the “Last Honest Analyst” on the cover of Forbes magazine, resigned her post as Head of the Wealth Management Division amidst a sea of controversy. Krawcheck, one time Citi CFO, was publicly demoted to her final position at Citigroup in 2007. However, she is a “big quit” because of her views, and how they differed from current CEO, Vikram Pandit. Krawcheck’s ideas on how to run the business were the very approaches that could...read more
No. 9 Alex Kummant (CEO): Amtrak Trouble continues to plague the nation’s government-owned rail carrier. In the midst of Amtrak’s major five year capitalization plan, and only two years into conducting business, CEO Alex Kummant unexpectedly resigned on November 14. Amtrak’s Board of Directors likely provoked the separation, and installed the fifth CEO in four years (two deemed “interim”). Though Kummant’s progress was limited, more CEO turnover will not help the continuously ailing train operator. As travelers avoided expensive driving and...read more
No. 10 Victor Ganzi (President and CEO): Hearst Corporation After an 18-year career and six as CEO, Victor Ganzi unexpectedly kissed Cosmo, Esquire and the rest of the Hearst Corporation goodbye. Ganzi reportedly resigned following disputes with the board about the global publisher’s future direction, even though Ganzi led the company to record revenue in 2007. Despite the seismic changes rippling through the media landscape, Ganzi managed to boost magazine revenue 6%, while the company’s large stakes in ESPN, A&E, Lifetime, and the...read more