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Opinion

Uneasy lies the head: Are the days of a CEO numbered?

Are the days of a CEO numbered? It's now estimated that the average period in office for FTSE 100 chief executives has fallen over the past 12 months to 4.6 years, according to on-line financial broadcaster Cantos. It's a worrying statistic when you look at stalwarts like Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, who has been in office since 1986.

This is the first time that the survey has ever shown a drop in average tenure for UK CEOs. Naturally these findings have provoked a bit of stir among industry leaders. Rob Margetts, chairman of Legal & General and the BOC Group, says the figures reveal some worrying trends. "In principle, I would say five years is a minimum and I think the ideal period of occupation is probably between five and 10 years," he says. "Clearly there will be a lot who have gone substantially more than five years, which implies there are a lot not getting beyond one, two or three years."

By contrast, group finance director Steve Webster at Wolseley reckons that a four-year to five-year period is plenty of time to make an impact on companies. "If you read the average management book it will say you probably need to make an impact in the first 30 days, in fact," he says.

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