Regulatory Burdens Fuel Exodus of European Business Leaders

There's a little Galt in all of them


On approaching his 60th birthday this year, long-serving Tullow Oil boss Aidan Heavey told staff he felt "like two 30 year-olds".

A handful of recent shock departures by 50-something chief executives at European blue chip companies—none of them under any obvious pressure to quit—suggest some of his peers either lack that vigor, or want to channel it elsewhere.

Peter Voser is giving up one of the world's most challenging CEO roles at Royal Dutch/Shell next year, before his 55th birthday, in pursuit of a "lifestyle change".

Swiss engineering group ABB's 55-year old boss Joe Hogan is also going, for "private reasons". Pierre-Olivier Beckers, 53, is walking out on Belgian retailer Delhaize, and Paul Walsh, 57, is waving goodbye to drinks multinational Diageo. …

"The quarterly reporting, the governance, the regulatory aspects, it just becomes very wearing—the level of scrutiny, the pace at which things are moving, the short-term nature of how people look at any given situation. Even over the past five years these things have made CEO a tougher position to hold, and the travel that people have to undertake in these jobs—it's just something they run out of steam on."