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Six CFOs who went out with a bang

What happens after the CFO quits? It can signal uncertainty to financial stakeholders if the departure is announced suddenly or at a critical time. And yet some CFOs manage to quit on excellent terms with their employers. Last week the chief financial officer (CFO) at Airbnb handed in his resignation amid some power struggles among the higher ranking executives at the home-rental website. Bloomberg reported that Laurence Tosi, who joined Airbnb as CFO in 2015, had his eye on the role of chief operating officer but the job went to another executive, Belinda Johnson. Tosi decided to leave.

Although people quit and move jobs on a regular basis and a CFO resigning isn't earth-shattering in itself, there can be significant financial consequences for organisations. While consumers and end-users are unlikely to notice or care at all, an outgoing CFO can send signals to shareholders and corporate investors. At the very least it can create uncertainty for a company's financial stakeholders. Tosi's departure means that Airbnb will not go ahead with its initial public offering (IPO) in 2018 and other CFO resignations have triggered other financial impacts, including share price decrease. On the other hand, some outgoing CFOs have managed the transition with a lot of good will and grace. Here are some high-profile CFO departures – notably all male – that have left a mark:

1. Laurence Tosi, CFO at Airbnb, from 2015 until February 2018

Tosi's departure means that Airbnb will not go ahead with its initial public offering (IPO) in 2018. The company's co-founder and CEO stated: “I know people will ask what these changes mean for a potential IPO. Let me address this directly. We are not going public in 2018.”

2. Patrick Pichette, CFO at Google until March 2015

Pichette wrote his famous life-work balance resignation note on Google+ and got general praise for bringing attention to the need to devote time to family and personal ambitions. Which is quite an affordable plan when you're on a salary most mortals can only dream of (said to be $5.2 million).

3. Frode Foss, CFO at Norwegian Airlines for 15 years until July 2017

Foss's departure came at a time when the budget nordic airline was undergoing rapid expansion of its transcontinental routes. Following his resignation in July last year, Reuters reported that shares in Norwegian Airlines fell almost 8 per cent and were the worst-performing stock on the Oslo bourse.

4. Jason Wheeler, CFO at Tesla until February 2017

Last year Tesla's CFO announced that he would be leaving on the day before an earnings announcement – so the earnings and CFO departure news reached investors and shareholders almost at the same time. The company's share price subsequently dropped by more than 6 per cent. Writing in Forbes, Chuck Jones commented: “An abrupt departure by a CFO right as a company is going into a major production ramp that is critical to the viability of the company and the probable need to raise capital would not be viewed well by investors, especially given the run the stock has had. A CFO search takes months and even if there was someone in Tesla’s financial organization that could in theory step into the role investors would still be nervous.” As luck would have it, Tesla's former CFO, Deepak Ahuja, was ready to step back into the role following Wheeler's announcement.

5. Dimitris Gryparis, CFO at Globo plc, until October 2015

The resignation of Globo's CFO, as well as the resignation of the CEO, came after they disclosed financial irregularities at the British mobile technology firm. The irregularities included “the falsification of data and misrepresentation of the company’s financial situation”, making the CFO's position untenable. In the immediate fallout of the crisis, Reuters reported that trading in Globo’s shares were suspended at the request of the company and that the stock fell about 27 per cent.

6. Mark Gifford, CFO at Game Digital, until January 2018

Gifford was credited with having been “a driving force behind the gaming group’s turnaround in recent years - including developing the events and Esports divisions and securing refinancing for the group’s Spanish operations”. But the Evening Standard reported that shares saw a drop after the announcement of his departure.  

This item appears in the following sections:
Best Practices & Benchmarking in Operations
Control & Compliance in Operations
Risk Management
Sustainable Green Treasury
Treasury Careers

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