technology

Expedia Executives Depart, and the CEO Carousel Keeps Spinning

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The Great Executive Shuffle of 2019 continued on Wednesday, with Expedia Group announcing the surprise departure of its CEO and CFO after clashing with the company's board over the travel company's direction. Chief Executive Mark Okerstrom and Chief Financial Officer Alan Pickerill will resign their posts effective immediately, with Chairman Barry Diller and Vice Chair Peter Kern managing the company while a new leadership team is chosen.
In a statement, Diller said that Expedia's reorganization, spearheaded by Okerstrom and Pickerill, was "sound in concept" but resulted in the company's disappointing third-quarter earnings results. Diller said the board "strongly [believes] the Company can accelerate growth in 2020" under new management.
Shares of Expedia ($EXPE) shot up more than 5 percent on the news. In contrast, shares of Alphabet ($GOOGL) moved only marginally higher on Tuesday's announcement that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were stepping aside and naming Sundar Pichai CEO of Alphabet.
From Expedia to Google, the year has been notable for how many chief executives have resigned, quit, or been forced out. It's happening across sectors like fast food (McDonald's), retail and apparel (Nike, Under Armour, Gap), cloud computing and enterprise software (SAP, ServiceNow), e-commerce (eBay). Some of those executives actually took each other's jobs, with Bill McDermott departing SAP for ServiceNow, and John Donahoe (who used to run eBay) leaving ServiceNow for Nike.
Even Expedia's rival in travel booking, Trivago, lost its CEO last month. And that's not to mention the collapse of WeWork, which forced out its founder and CEO over a disastrous IPO attempt. More than 170 chief executives left just in the month of October, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
There is no single reason for the C-suite exodus. Some, like Steve Easterbrook at McDonald's, were fired over misconduct. Others, like Mark Parker at Nike and Adam Neumann at WeWork, departed amid other scandals. Still others, like Kevin Plank at Under Armour, resigned under the pressure of struggling businesses.
But for some of these executives, their influence in the companies they led doesn't follow them out the revolving door. Brin and Page of Google, for instance, still hold a majority of the voting power in Alphabet, about 25 percent a piece, according to regulatory filings. Because of how many businesses ー particular in Silicon Valley ー structure their Class A and Class B shares, a CEO can step down, but still never really be gone. Just ask WeWork, which had to pay Neumann $1.7 billion to give up his voting rights and walk away.
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