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7 of the biggest ‘free agent’ C-suite leaders on the job market right now

June 21, 2022, 10:47 AM UTC

Good morning,

From CFOs, CEOs and COOs, quite a few executives have recently resigned from high-profile companies without publicly announcing another C-suite job they’ve lined up. Technically, they’re now free agents. 

Depending on why they left, the exec can take years off, reinvent themselves, and still be a desirable candidate to corporations, Jaimee Eddington, a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Dallas office and regional leader of the Americas, told me. 

“Historically, we’ve put together a report every year kind of called our ‘route to the top,’” Eddington says. “That’s when we typically are looking at C-suite executive trends year over year.” The firm has long provided senior-level executive search services and clients’ needs are evolving, she says.

“More recently, just like everything else, companies are going through rapid change,” Eddington says. She explains that pre-pandemic companies stayed the “traditional route” of wanting candidates whose experience closely matched the executive role they tried to fill. So, “we are taking more of a risk” and looking at individuals that might have taken non-traditional routes, she says. That includes “people who have chosen to step off a company’s operating executive team for a while or those who have transitioned into academia but are looking to come back.”

But there’s still a vetting process. “We thoroughly reference the backgrounds and sets of experiences, situations, which may have led to that executive to step away,” she says. “And we’re able to ascertain based [on that information] and credibility previously in the market, whether or not an executive is able to come back.”

From tech to manufacturing and retail, here’s some of the most notable free agents on the market right now:

Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Meta

Sandberg announced on June 1 that she would be stepping down from her role at Meta to turn her attention to advocating for women’s reproductive rights in light of Roe vs. Wade potentially being overturned.  

“It’s just not a job that leaves room for a lot of other stuff in your life,” Sandberg told Fortune in an interview at the time of her announcement. “This is a really important moment for women. This is a really important moment for me to be able to do more with my philanthropy, with my foundation.” 

Sandberg joined Facebook as chief operating officer in 2008 and was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s second-in-command. Javier Olivan will take on the COO role in the fall. Sanberg will remain on the board of the company. 

James M. Loree, CEO, Stanley Black & Decker

Loree started his career at Stanley Black & Decker in 1999 as CFO. He then spent seven years as COO, becoming CEO in 2016. After six years at the helm, the company announced Loree would step down and Donald Allan, Jr., CFO, would become the next CEO, effective July 1. 

“Jim plans to take some time this summer to reflect and unwind, then decide what’s next for him while continuing with his board of director engagements at Whirlpool and other community organizations,” a Stanley Black and Decker representative told me.

Jill Woodworth, CFO at Peloton Interactive

Woodworth began as CFO at Peloton in 2018, coming from J.P. Morgan, where she was a managing director. She led the company through its IPO in 2019. Peloton announced on June 6 that Woodworth decided to step down and Liz Coddington would be her successor, starting the job on June 13. 

Woodworth said in a LinkedIn post: “After an amazing four years at Peloton Interactive, I’m clipping out to begin a new chapter. It has been a privilege to guide Peloton through some of its biggest milestones. I want to thank John Foley, our co-founders, my talented global finance team, and all my Peloton teammates for their passion and determination to make the world healthier and happier. See you on the leaderboard!” Her current job title on LinkedIn is “Consultant at Peloton Interactive.” 

John Foley, Peloton co-founder, executive chair and CEO

Foley stepped down as CEO in February. At the time, Peloton’s shares had tumbled more than 80% from their all-time high a year ago, Fortune reported. Activist investors have called both for Foley’s resignation and for Peloton to explore a sale of the business. They announced then it would shed about 2,800 jobs, impacting approximately 20% of corporate positions. Barry McCarthy, a former CFO at Spotify, became CEO of Peloton on Feb. 9. 

Patrik Frisk, Under Armour CEO

The company announced on May 18 that Frisk would step down as president, CEO, and a member of the board of directors, effective June 1. He will remain with Under Armour as an advisor through September 1, the company told me.

“The last five years have been transformational for us,” Kevin Plank, Under Armour founder and executive chairman, told CNBC on May 19. “Patrik joined in 2017 and started that transformation. He was the one that was really responsible for it.” Frisk was the one who helped the company to be able to make this “pivot to growth,” Plank said. “This was a mutual separation,” he said. “We look forward to this next chapter in terms of turning the page and really being able to grow the brand.”

Emily Weiss, founder and executive chairwoman and CEO at Glossier, Inc. 

Weiss announced on May 24 she would step down as CEO of the direct-to-consumer beauty company. Weiss posted on LinkedIn: Today marks an exciting new chapter for me and Glossier, Inc. After eight incredible years serving as both founder and CEO, I couldn’t be more thrilled to share that Kyle (Gallary) Leahy, our chief commercial officer, will step into the CEO role.” She continued, “As Kyle takes the helm day-to-day, I’m humbled and excited to step into the role of executive chairwoman, working closely with Kyle and our board on stewarding Glossier into 2025, 2030 and beyond.” The digital-first beauty company, launched in 2010, has raised more than $265 million in VC capital. 

Benjamin Dunham, WeWork CFO

WeWork announced on May 26 that Dunham was stepping down and appointed Andre J. Fernandez to the role, beginning on June 10. WeWork went public in October 2021 via a SPAC, following an unsuccessful IPO attempt in 2019. Dunham said on the company’s earnings call May 12 that the “quarterly building margin was positive for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Dunham was promoted to CFO in October 2020 after serving as CFO of WeWork Americas for two years. He succeeded Kimberly Ross, who began as CFO in March 2020 and served in the role for less than a year. Dunham previously served in financial leadership roles at Pizza Hut and Yum! Brands. WeWork confirmed that he’s not retiring but didn’t comment on his next steps. 


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

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Big deal

Employ's 2022 Job Seeker Nation Report gauges the preferences and experiences of today’s job seekers. Many employees want new opportunities but are choosing not to apply to new roles at their current company. About 45% of workers surveyed actively seek a new job or plan to within the next year. And of those, 54% have not looked at their company's open positions, according to the report. The findings are based on a survey of over 1,500 U.S. workers.

Courtesy of Employ

Going deeper

Just months after a hiring frenzy, companies are laying off workers. Here’s how to make sense of the conflicting job market, a Fortune report by Geoff Colvin, addresses the question: "Are U.S. employers begging workers to fill empty seats or are they booting employees out the door in preparation for a looming recession?" Colvin writes: "The short answer is that, for now, the talent crunch is a much larger issue than layoffs by several orders of magnitude. But that could change, and a case could be made that we should hope it does."

Leaderboard

Michelle "Chelle" F. Adams was named CFO and treasurer at SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS), a theme park and entertainment company, effective June 17. Adams served as the CFO of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. She was also previously the partner-in-charge of the Hospitality and Gaming Industry Group at RubinBrown LLP and a manager at Deloitte & Touche LLP. Adams replaces Elizabeth Castro Gulacsy, who previously announced her intention to retire from SeaWorld as CFO. Gulacsy will remain with the company for the next several months and then serve in a consulting capacity.

Henry Dubois was promoted to CFO at BlackSky Technology Inc. (NYSE: BKSY). Dubois joined BlackSky as chief development officer in August 2021 after having served as an advisor to the company’s board since September 2018. Dubois succeeds Johan Broekhuysen, who stepped down from his role as CFO on June 9. Before joining BlackSky, Dubois was the CFO at GeoEye, Inc. He also held several executive positions at DigitalGlobe, Inc., including president, CFO, and chief operating officer.

Overheard

“One thing is clear: if there is a sudden stop of Russian gas, the likelihood of a recession coming sooner is obviously far higher. There is no doubt."

—Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing told CNBC on Monday. 

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