A recent article on biz.yahoo about Aetna carried the sub headline "Aetna Shares Drop After Company Posts Strong 1Q Earnings but Announce Retirement of 2 Executives". While f urther investigation revealed a number of other issues are also responsible for the more than 20% price fall, the headline articulates a fear that is building in the analyst community. This may be now getting some focus, but the problem has been around for a long time. The graph below shows the share price performance going back 10 years for three global companies, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and McDonalds. During the time shown, Pepsi have changed leaders once; Coke and McDonalds have changed many more times.
What is striking is that while McDonalds had two CEO's retire due to ill health in a very short time, the turn around underway in the company scarcely missed a beat. Over a longer time, Coke seemed to struggle to get it right. When Ivestor was appointed, it was after a very strong performance as Goizueta's CFO. What became apparent later was that he had not had enough exposure to handling public relations, and director relations. His successor, Daft, struggled from a lack of understanding of the politics of Atlanta and went after those executives tied to the former CEO causing massive disruption in the executive ranks.