5 CEOs Who Got the Ax This Year

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

The plain fact is that when it comes to business, the forces of the world and markets never rest. The economy is always churning, creating and destroying firms at a breakneck pace, even while some of us are on vacation or daydreaming away. As firms and businesses are birthed and destroyed, individuals within these systems can experience meteoric rises to the head of their organizations, or be pulled asunder as profits fall and consumer flock to the next big thing.

For a handful of CEOs, that’s unfortunately what has happened over the first month or so of 2015. Whether it was a long-term decline in sales, allegations of misconduct, or simply to make room for younger, more nimble talent, chief executives ultimately reach the end of their reign, and need to be removed — with a parachute, typically, or not.

With 2014 fiscal and performance results in-hand, the leadership of five rather large companies have opted to remove their respective CEOs early into 2015. Here are five individuals, and the companies they were heading up, that have been shown the door so far.

1. Don Thompson — McDonald’s

McDonald’s has been going through one hell of a transition. The company has been experiencing an unprecedented stall in growth, with sales dropping dramatically as consumers flock to newer, “fast-casual” types of eateries. Unfortunately for Don Thompson, he was at the helm when the trouble peaked and is ultimately paying the price for his company’s failure to keep up. Thompson had been in in the driver’s seat since July 2012, and has seen the fast-food giant decline under his watch.

“I don’t think it was too much of a surprise. Maybe in the timing but not the action,” said Sanford Bernstein analyst Sara Senatore, per Reuters, in reference to Thompson’s removal as chief executive. “This has been something that people have been talking about for a while.”

Source: Timm Schamberger/AFP/Getty Images
Timm Schamberger/AFP/Getty Images

2. Bryan Stockton — Mattel

When sales of Barbie dolls started to stagnate, many analysts quickly recognized that there was blood in the water. The sharks ultimately moved in, and as a result, Mattel’s CEO Bryan Stockton resigned (or was fired, depending on who you believe). In the three months that led up to the year’s end, CNBC reports that Mattel’s net income fell an incredible 59%, from $369 million to just under 150 million. Stockton, who had been in the chief executive role since 2012, lost his job as a result.

“Mattel is an exceptional company with a great future but the board believes that it is the right time for new leadership to maximise its potential,” said Christopher Sinclair, the man who was tapped to replace Stockton. “We are committed to delivering improved growth and financial performance.” If Sinclair can get the toy maker back on track, perhaps it will show the company made the right move in letting Stockton go.

Chief Executive Officer, GMAC Financial Services, Michael Carpenter testifies before a Congressional Oversight Panel during a hearing on GMAC Financial Services and the Troubled Asset Relief Program on Capitol Hill February 25, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Panel heard from the U.S. Department of Treasury, GMAC Financial Services, and industry analysts about their perspectives on GMAC's current and future financial stability, the structure and staging of Treasury's investments in GMAC, the rationale behind that support, and GMAC's strategic initiatives and plans to repay the taxpayers' investment. (Photo by Ann Heisenfelt/Getty Images)
Ann Heisenfelt/Getty Images

3. Michael Carpenter — Ally Financial

Many people are probably familiar with the name Ally Financial, or Ally Bank. While it’s not exactly Bank of America or Goldman Sachs, Ally is still a rather large firm, and unfortunately for now-former CEO Michael Carpenter, the company hasn’t been performing all that well lately. Carpenter voluntarily stepped down from his post as chief executive, and he will ultimately remain with the company as a consultant.

Ally suffered some fallout from its separation with General Motors, and even though Carpenter had laid out an extensive plan to get the company back on the rails, he decided to let someone else take the reins.

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

 4. Outerwall 

Hearing that the CEO of Outerwall is out of a job may not mean a lot to the casual observer, but when you realize that you’re probably very familiar with one of the company’s products, it may become more intriguing. J. Scott Di Valerio, the chief executive of Outerwall — the company that runs Redbox — has opted to step down after less than two years at his post. While it’s not entirely clear why Di Valerio gave up his job, it likely wasn’t due to the company’s performance. Reuters says that 2014 fourth-quarter revenues were expected to beat analysts’ expectations, which should make shareholders and board members happy.

But then again, it looks like he may have been shown the door by company leadership, at least according to a company spokesman. “To accelerate the progress we are making, the board believes that now is the right time for a leadership change,” Outerwall chairman Nelson Chan said in a statement, Variety reports. “Outerwall continues to capitalize on its market-leading brands to drive profitability and deliver value for shareholders, partners and customers.”

Source: Mat Szwajkos/Getty Images
Source: Mat Szwajkos/Getty Images

 5. American Apparel

American Apparel CEO Dov Charney was fired on December 16, but we’re going to include him for surviving 50 of 2014’s 52 weeks as the head of his company. Charney has had an extremely troubled tenure as CEO of the fashion retail chain and was ultimately let go by the company’s board of trustees in response to sexual harassment allegations against him.

“Based on this investigation, the special committee determined that it would not be appropriate for Mr. Charney to be reinstated as CEO or an officer or employee of the company,” a press release from the company said, per a report from United Press International.

Charney’s firing may not be all that surprising, but it sure took a while for the company to actually pull the trigger. Charney will be joining the small handful of other CEOs to have been let go so far in 2015 and will likely be joined by many more with time.

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