Retensa’s Top 10 “Biggest Quits” of 2009
Annual review of the most significant voluntary resignations in the United States.
New York, NY, January, 2010 – In a year characterized by a volatile job market, a lucky few had the luxury to resign. Previously justifiable reasons for resignation were overlooked in light of the “Great Recession.” Executives, like the rest of the workforce, held fast as job security dwindled. CEO turnover decreased from the highs we saw in 2008. Although double digit unemployment was enough of a deterrent for most to restrain, we did find several individuals who could (and did) quit this year. Accordingly, we present the annual publication of Retensa’s Top 10 “Biggest Quits” and the most influential turnover stories of 2009.
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.
Wendelin Wiedeking (CEO): Porsche (Non US-based and therefore outside of official consideration)
Wendelin Wiedeking revved Porsche’s engine like no CEO since Ferdinand Porsche himself. Narrowly avoiding bankruptcy when he took over in 1993, Wiediking paved a new road toward a strong, independent Porsche amidst industry consolidation. To do so, he applied Japanese manufacturing efficiencies and redefined expectations of what could wear the famous shield. The Boxster thrilled enthusiasts, critics and well-heeled commuters alike, and weaned Porsche from its dangerous reliance on fickle buyers of the legendary, yet mid-life-crisis-priced, 911. Wiedeking, famous for his motto of “no risk, no fun” then made his biggest “bet the company” wager yet. Launching the Cayenne horrified Porsche purists who saw only a 2-ton, 4-door behemoth. Ultimately, Wiedeking’s bet arrived at the sweet-spot of America’s love affair with large, while turning Porsche into one of the world’s most profitable automakers. Interestingly, his last “bet the company” move, an improbable attempt to buy the German behemoth Volkswagen, was too ambitious. In the end, VW took over Porsche and Wiedeking retired from the corner office. Notable for being the last great independent automaker, who dreamed big and delivered, he is likely inspiring a legion of auto start-ups in the electric and hybrid arena.
The year 2009, and the first decade of the millennium, has been an era of juxtaposition. Extremes abound in politics, the weather, and the economy. Social media ensures that news travels faster than ever, and yet, 2009 was for most a year long phone call on hold. We were all ready, just waiting for the “other end” to pick up. While 10 percent of America is unemployed, another 7 percent is underemployed, having given up looking, or forced to take a part time job. And the paradox is, those with a job are as unhappy as ever, 55% in fact. If you employ staff under 25, 64% are dissatisfied.10 Maybe losing all your friends at work, doing 3 employee’s job, and a salary freeze is not as fun as it used to be. And what is the impact of that? Many organizations have cut their social, professional, and financial benefits in 2009. Is it possible that the employees left are counting the days, watching the clock, and checking the job boards (while you are paying them?) They are here now, but history tells us, turnover will increase as unemployment decreases. Not having the ability to resign now, will lead to dramatic retention challenges when the job market starts getting better. Individuals will begin to see sprouts of opportunity in other places and will take action. Fortunately, approximately 94% of turnover is preventable. If employee issues exist, there are many causes. Now is a good time, while your good employees are still with you, to understand and address them. If you are the employer, when the “other end” picks up, you may no longer be on the call.
1) The New York Times, The Caucus, “Specter Switches Parties” (April 2009)
2) The Economic Times, “AIG left without HR head in midst of pay crisis” (December 2009)
3) The Wall Street Journal, “CEO Quits at Meat Giant Tyson” (January 2009)
4) The New York Times, “Lisa Leslie, the Face of the W.N.B.A., Prepares for Life After Basketball” (August 2009)
5) TechCrunch.com, “Google Ad Chief Tim Armstrong Replaces Randy Falco As Chairman And CEO Of AOL” (March 2009)
6) The New York Times, Week in Review, “David H. Souter: Justice Unbound” (May 2009)
7) ESPN.com, “Dungy retires after 7 seasons with Colts” (January 2009)
8) Indianapolis Business Journal, “Influential Women: Deirdre Connelly” (November 2007)
9) EOnline.com, “Tiger Woods’ Indiscretions Cost Sponsors $12 Billion” (December 2009)
10) The Conference Board, “U.S. Job Satisfaction at Lowest Level in Two Decades” (January 2010)
No. 1 Arlen Specter (Senator): Republican Party Moderate 29-year Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter shocked his (former) Republican colleagues and delighted Democrats on April 28 when he announced he would switch parties. It was a quit so big that health care reform passed the Senate when Democrats leveraged the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority they now enjoy. Fellow Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine warned that the GOP was in denial: “I think that we as a party and our leaders have to recognize the reality of the situation...read more
No. 2 Oprah Winfrey (Host, Producer, Empire Builder): CBS Syndication and ABC Television Oprah Winfrey knows how to quit while ahead, as she announced in November 2009 that she would pull the plug on her top-rated syndicated talk show. No one can call Winfrey a couch potato, as she will keep busy with her two magazines, (O, The Oprah Magazine and O at Home), her multimedia production company, Harpo Productions, Inc., and the launch of her new cable network, OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). She is the richest African American of the 20th century,...read more
No. 3 Andrew Kaslow (Chief Human Resources Officer): AIG Andrew Kaslow (the Biggest Quits List first Chief Human Resources Officer) bailed on AIG this fall, leaving a key vacancy during a critical time for the insurance giant. Kaslow, a member of the company’s executive committee, intended to make AIG an “employer of choice worldwide” and spearheaded AIG’s quest to attract and retain top talent. However, after AIG required $180 billion in bailout money, its executive and high-performer pay structure needed an overhaul....read more
No. 4 Richard L. Bond (CEO): Tyson Foods, Inc. Richard L. Bond, CEO of Tyson resigned in January 2009, seemingly unwilling or unable to ruffle enough feathers to change the 74 year old company. During his 2 1/2 year tenure, Bond tried to beef up Tyson’s formerly chicken-centric brand.3 However, disagreement among leaders in the Tyson family over how to navigate the meat industry’s worst slump in decades, pushed Bond to fly the coop. A Tyson family member took over just as books and documentaries (e.g. Food, Inc.) began to shed...read more
No. 5 Lisa Leslie (Center): Los Angeles Sparks, WNBA If you have heard of any player in the WNBA, Lisa Leslie is the one. A three-time WNBA MVP, a four-time Olympic gold medal winner and the first player to dunk in a WNBA game, Leslie is certainly one of the top female athletes in the world. In her eleven year career, Leslie was one of the pillars of the WNBA, becoming the first player to score 6,000 points in her career. Also known for her lipstick and hair ribbons on the court, Leslie is a role model to many girls all over the world....read more
No. 6 Tim Armstrong (Head of US Ad Sales): Google While other companies struggled in the economic downturn, Tim Armstrong led Google’s US sales to 18 percent growth. His success granted him respect and a sizable paycheck, yet there was little chance of him being promoted to the ranks of CEO. AOL deftly poached Armstrong for their top spot, in their attempt to be the Google of something, actually of anything. With AOL having neither the presence nor brand of Google, Yahoo or even Microsoft, there is plenty of room for improvement. Also,...read more
No. 7 David H. Souter (Associate Justice): U.S. Supreme Court No one could predict the joy of wise Latinas on May 1st, when Supreme Court Judge David H. Souter informed President Obama of his retirement after 19 years. Souter was known to have become disenchanted with Washington ways and yearned to return to the more measured pace of his New Hampshire home. “I find the workload of what I do sufficiently great that when the term of the court starts I undergo a sort of annual intellectual lobotomy,” he once said.6 The court’s...read more
No. 8 Tony Dungy (Head Coach): Indianapolis Colts, National Football League Having set new NFL head coaching records for appearing in ten consecutive playoffs, becoming the first coach to defeat all 32 NFL teams, and being the first African American head coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl trophy, Tony Dungy left an indelible mark on the NFL. Dungy’s legacy continues through the “coaching tree” he established by having developed numerous assistants who now lead NFL teams. Also a popular football commentator and...read more
No. 9 Deirdre Connelly (President of US Operations): Eli Lilly Climbing the ladder from sales rep, to executive director of HR, to President of US Operations, Deirdre Connelly’s career progression at Eli Lilly was a prescription for success. After 26 loyal years, with 4 years at her recent post, Connelly resigned to become President of competitor GlaxoSmithKline’s North American pharmaceuticals business. For Eli Lilly, this move is a bitter pill, as Connelly was a successful and influential executive, and a mentor and role model...read more
No. 10 Gatorade, AT&T, and Accenture (Sponsors): Tiger Woods In golf, some “bad lies” are worse than others. Tiger Woods, the #1 ranked male golfer in the world, has won 14 major golf championships, 71 PGA events, and is a 10-time PGA “Player of the Year.” Well, no one’s arguing that he is not a 10-time player. After several self-proclaimed “transgressions,” Woods took an indefinite leave from golf, but his many endorsements chose a more permanent route, and quit affiliating with Tiger Woods....read more