CEO exitsFewer of the nation's chief executives headed for the exit doors in February, a new report released Thursday shows.

The number of CEOs departures last month fell 30% to 92, compared to 132 a year ago. February's total was also slightly lower than that of January, when 96 top executives exited their posts, according to the monthly CEO turnover report compiled by job-services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

During the first two months of the year, a total of 188 CEO departures were announced, down 15% from January and February 2010 when 221 chief executives left their jobs.

The financial and government/nonprofit sectors saw the heaviest CEO turnover in February, with each losing 14. Health care was close behind with 13 CEO changes, bringing the year-to-date sector total to 22, down from 35 at the same point last year.

Retirements and Resignations

"While the financial sector appears to be stabilizing, in general, we continue to see volatility at the top of the leadership chart," said Challenger CEO John A. Challenger, in a statement releasing the latest tally. "This volatility could increase in the coming months as recent legislation requires financial institutions, particularly smaller credit unions, to restructure ineffective management."

Financial firms have announced 23 CEO departures this year, up from 16 a year ago. Since September, the sector has averaged 11 CEO changes a month, Challenger said.

According to the Challenger report, more than one-quarter of last month's total CEO departures were attributed to retirement. Another 23 resigned, making this the most common departure reason so far this year with a total of 54 to date. Mergers and acquisitions resulted in five CEO exits last month, while four others left their posts because of scandal.

In one such example in Arizona, Michael Gilliland was removed as chief executive at Sunflower Farmers Market of Tucson, after he was arrested on allegations connected to soliciting sex from a minor. Gilliland pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this month.

In Tallahassee, Florida A&M University Federal Credit Union named a new CEO after its former chief executive, Eugene Telfair, was tried and sentenced to 30 months in prison for embezzling more than $130,000 in grant money.

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