DP13294 CEO Performance in Severe Crises: The Role of Newcomers

Author(s): José Amador, Sharmin Sazedj, José Tavares
Publication Date: November 2018
Keyword(s): CEO tenure, firm performance, great recession
JEL(s): G34, J24, L25
Programme Areas: Financial Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13294

A firm's optimal choice of a CEO involves a trade-off between hiring newcomers - who take time to profit from learning by doing - and avoiding CEO turnover or opting for internal successions - risking that the old guard fall prey to an experience trap, repeating the same old business practices. When firms are hit by an aggregate economic shock, exogenous, unexpected, and unprecedented in nature, reach, magnitude and persistence, conducting 'business as usual' no longer applies and having in office a newcomer - a CEO hired recently from another firm - may turn out to be particularly valuable to efficiently abandon old management practices. We use a unique matched firm-employee dataset for Portuguese firms in the wake of the last economic crisis, to estimate the value of a newcomer CEO, who is by nature prone to avoid the experience trap. During the crisis, firms run by newcomer CEOs outperform those run by high tenured and/or internally promoted CEOs in terms of both value added (GVA) and sales. We estimate a performance gap of approximately 18%, and confirm that no such gap exists prior to the crisis. Firms managed by newcomers are also less likely to fail during the crisis. Propensity core matching confirms our difference-in-differences results. Our findings are robust to different measures of firm performance, across different samples and specifications, and to the inclusion of several CEO and firm controls, including fixed effects. Finally, we show that newcomer CEOs make different decisions in terms of personnel, expenditure, investment and international trade, attaining higher productivity levels.