2019’s CEO Shake-Ups

Written by Kaarina Zhao

Over the past year, many of the nation’s most well known companies CEO’s were dethroned. Both Adam Neumann, co-founder of shared office space company WeWork, and Kevin Burns, CEO of e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, were pushed aside under a cloud of controversy, and they are just the latest to fall in a series of shake-ups.

In the wake of problematic finances, questionable relationships, and criminal allegations, multiple CEOs were asked to step down: 


Adam Neumann, WeWork:

In late September, WeWork announced that Neumann would be stepping down from his role as CEO. Neumann himself cited that intense public scrutiny had become a distraction in running the firm. This took place after a clouds of controversy gathered around Neumann’s personal decision to use company stock to obtain a $500 million personal loan, expanding properties under his personal name, WeWork’s mounting financial losses, and the company’s delayed IPO.

Two other company executives are to take his place.


Kevin Burns, Juul: 

After the growing vaping epidemic has been linked to drastic health effects, including lung illnesses and multiple counts of death in young people, Juul’s top executive has come under fire. Increased FDA scrutiny regarding Juul’s marketing to young people as ‘safe’ and government regulations surrounding vaping flavors have added fuel to the fire. Ultimately, CEO Kevin Burns, stepped down from his executive position, and Juul has announced their decision to suspend all broadcast, print, and digital advertising in the US.


Stephen Easterbrook, McDonalds:

After it was recently revealed that he had a relationship with one of his employees, violating company conduct policies, Former McDonald’s CEO Easterbrook was asked to step down. 

In the process, Easterbrook received a severance package worth $42 million. 


Art Peck, Gap:

Amidst declining sales, Gap reported that its CEO Art Pack will step down. Its popular brands’ most recent quarter from November 7th, reported over 5% sales declines compared with the same quarter from the prior year. Additionally, in the coming years, Old Navy entered plans to spin off into its own company, and Gap has plans to close down hundreds of stores.


Kevin Plank, Under Armour:

Under a cloud of reports regarding Plank’s actions of presiding over a ‘frat-house culture’, spending company money on strip clubs, joining Trump’s economic council, and the company’s longstanding controversy regarding discrtimination and sexual misconduct towards women on a pay and promotion-basis, Under Armour’s founder Kevin Plank is stepping down from his role as CEO, effective next year. 


Mark Parker, Nike:

After 13 long years as Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker is stepping down. In 2018, Nike weathered multiple lawsuits over gender discrimination, and Parker came under fire for presiding over a boy’s club culture at the company. Additionally, after long-time running coach Alberto Salazar’s doping allegations in 2018,  Nike closed down their running club, the Nike Oregon Project.


Devin Wenig, Ebay:

Ebay CEO Devin Wenig, recently stepped down from his role as president and  CEO after differences with the company’s new board members arose. These differences stem from the board’s plans to sell some of its businesses under activist pressure. In a tweet, Wenig wrote: “in the past few weeks, it became clear that I was not on the same page as my new board. Whenever that happens, it’s best for everyone to turn the new page over.”

Recent management scholars have pointed to the US-China trade war and decelerating economic growth creating a more challenging environment for major businesses, potentially contributing to management difficulties. As a result, it’s become harder for companies and company executives to meet their targets. However, financial difficulties do not explain all. Questionable decisions, personal relationships, and tussles with the board have all fed into 2019’s latest executive shake-ups. Whatever the reason may be, it looks like the coming years will remain challenging, and CEOs will continue to face and operate under this dynamism. 

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