University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business

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Riding off into the sunset: Organizational sensegiving, shareholder sensemaking, and reactions to CEO retirement

Author(s): H Biligili, Joanna Campbell, A Ellstrand, J Johnson

Status: Accepted
Year: 2016
Publication Name: Journal of Management Studies


Abstract

We test hypotheses derived from resource dependence and sensemaking/sensegiving theoretical lenses in the context of CEO succession, focusing on an under-researched yet prevalent type of executive turnover – CEO retirement. Using event study methodology and a sample of CEO retirements from S&P 1500 firms during the 2003–12 period, we find that, all else equal, shareholders’ perceptions of organizations’ capacity to serve their interests are adversely affected when a retirement related change occurs in the leadership structure. Specifically, in line with resource dependence theory, we find that CEO retirement disclosures typically generate negative abnormal returns. Furthermore, in line with the sensemaking perspective, we find that the magnitude of shareholders’ reactions is contingent on the lexical sensegiving cues contained in the organizational narratives that are released to capital markets via executive retirement announcements. Overall, our theory and results point to CEO retirement events as consequential in the eyes of shareholders, challenging an important assumption of extant succession research. Moreover, they suggest that shareholders’ interpretation of these events is influenced by organizational sensegiving, highlighting the important role of organizational communication around succession events.


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