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The big exit: executive churn in the wake of M&As

Jeffrey A. Krug (Virginia Commonwealth University, School of Business Administration, Richmond, VA, USA. )
Walt Shill (Accenture, Reston, VA, USA.)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 4 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to report the results of a ten‐year study on the effects of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) on target company executives and discusses the importance of managing leadership issues during the merger integration process.


We followed the careers of more than 23,000 executives in over 1,000 target firms during a 17‐year period surrounding the acquisition. We then compared trends in executive turnover rates before and after the acquisition to understand the long‐term leadership effects of M&As.


Target company executive teams are generally stable before they are acquired. Following acquisition, however, firms can expect to lose 21 percent or more of their executives each year – more than double that experienced in non‐merged firms – for at least ten years after the acquisition.

Practical implications

Results show that M&As destroy whatever leadership stability target firms may have had prior to acquisition. The problem is to identify leadership instability when it occurs, understand the underlying causes, and take action to restore leadership stability in ways that increase decision making effectiveness and enhance long‐term performance.


In total, roughly ten years were spent compiling the data reported in this study. Given the labor intensity and length of time needed for such an effort, it is highly unlikely that a comparable database will be compiled again in the near future. This creates a unique opportunity to generate deeper insights into a variety of top management team issues in M&As that can be leveraged to improve the effectiveness of post‐merger integration engagements. We expect a variety of insightful findings to emerge as we continue to analyze these data and will report in future articles.



Krug, J.A. and Shill, W. (2008), "The big exit: executive churn in the wake of M&As", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 15-21.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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