Chief executive turnover in media, retail and food picked up in March, according to the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
A total of 12 CEOs in those sectors announced their departures last month, up from six in February. Three media, three retail and six food CEOs said they planned to leave their posts.
"At this point in the recovery, we are seeing a lot of volatility in sectors related to consumer products and services," said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "This volatility has come in the form of store closures, business restructuring, layoffs and changes in leadership." Turnover at the top can often be a precursor to other changes and people moves throughout an organization, he said.
The six CEO departures in food were due to retirements, resignations and executive replacements surrounding bankruptcy proceedings. Jim Skinner, 67, of McDonald's announced his retirement after seven years at the helm to be replaced by the company's chief operating officer Don Thompson, 48, on July 1. The Irving, Texas-based baked goods company Hostess Brands and the Paducah, Ky.-based ice-cream maker Dippin' Dots both lost their CEOs, Brian Driscoll and Curt Jones, due to bankruptcy proceedings. Driscoll was replaced by restructuring expert Gregory Rayburn. Dippin' Dots has not yet named a replacement for Curt Jones. Greg Charleston, a restructuring officer from Atlanta, Ga., has taken over as trustee for the company.
The other CEO departures in the food sector were Seamus McBride of Bacardi Limited, who retired and was replaced by Edward Shirley, former vice chairman of Procter & Gamble's global beauty and grooming division, Daniel Woodside of Unified Foodservice Purchasing Co-op, who also retired and has not been replaced, and Bryce Ruiz of Ruiz Foods, who resigned for personal reasons. His sister Kim Ruiz Beck is currently serving as interim CEO.
The three CEO departures in retail included: Clyde Anderson of the Birmingham, Ala.-based bookstore chain Books-A-Million, Inc. who stepped down and was replaced by the company's chief operating officer Terrance Finley; Harvey Kanter of the Seattle, Wash.-based outdoor retailer Moosejaw Mountaineering and Backcountry Travel who left to lead the Seattle, Wash.-based online jeweler Blue Nile; and Vijay Talwar of Blue Nile, who gave up his interim role as CEO.
The three CEO departures in media occurred due to executive replacements and executives stepping down and taking jobs elsewhere. Howard Stringer, 70, of Sony Corporation of America was replaced by Michael Lynton, 52, CEO of Sony Pictures. Gary Pruitt, 54, left publishier McClatchy Company to lead the Associated Press and was replaced by McClatchy's chief financial officer, Patrick Talamantes, 47. Patricia Simon, 60, of the public broadcasting station PBS39 left to pursue other opportunities. Timothy Fallon, project director for PBS39's broadcast center, was named acting CEO while the company's board of directors searches for Simon's replacement.
"It is not unusual to see an increase in the number of CEOs leaving voluntarily from companies in struggling sectors," said Challenger.
CEO turnover across the 26 industries Challenger tracks slowed in March, with 94 departures announced during the month, down from 104 in February. Overall, CEO turnover in the first quarter of 2012 is up 18% from a year ago.
Challenger compiles its monthly CEO turnover report based on media reports and company filings.
Write to Damian Ghigliotty at Damian.Ghigliotty@dowjones.com