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CEO Tenure Climbing at Big Associations

February 2, 2006

Although there were numerous CEO departures from high-profile trade associations and nonprofits in the past six months, tenure in the corner office is at its highest level in almost a decade.

During the 1990s, the average CEO tenure remained constant at seven years, according to Jeannine James, Ph.D., president of the American Research Company Inc., which publishes the annual National Compensation Study on Associations. Corroborating James’ ongoing study, a January 2006 CEO Update survey revealed that, among the 48 top trade associations with $50 million-plus budgets, nine years is now the average tenure for current association CEOs.

That’s not surprising, says Leonard Pfeifer, an executive recruiter and principal of D.C.-based Leonard Pfeifer & Associates, referring to the number of departures in 2005.  In 2003 and 2004 there were limited executive recruiter assignments, which mirrored the sluggish recruiting market during that time.