Simmons CEO George Makris leaves post

  • After nine years in the position
  • Bob Fehlman taking over
  • Makris will remain as executive chairman at Simmons
  • Makris kept it short and said 51 words

(exechange) — Pine Bluff, Arkansas, December 19, 2022 — George Makris, chief executive of Simmons, leaves his position. As announced by Simmons First National Corp. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Monday, December 19, 2022, George A. Makris leaves his post as chief executive officer at the bank holding company, after nine years in the role, effective January 1, 2023.

The average tenure of CEOs who announced their departure over the past 12 months was 8.2 years. This is according to data collected by CEO-exit research firm exechange.

exechange tracks CEO departures at the 3,000 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S., examines the reasons CEOs leave and determines the Push‑out Score™, a measure of pressure on departing chief executives on a scale of 0 to 10.

George Makris’s duties as CEO will be taken over by Robert A. (Bob) Fehlman, currently president and chief operating officer at Simmons First National Corp.

George Makris’s move coincides with a management shake-up also involving the position of president and chief financial officer.

No reason given

In the announcement, Simmons did not explicitly explain the reason for the move.

The top three reasons cited in corporate announcements for CEO departures over the past 12 months are performance issues (26.9% of cases), implementation of a planned succession (16.5%) and the statement that the time was right for a change (8.6%), according to exechange data. Other motives given for leadership changes included the outgoing CEO’s wish to pursue other opportunities (6.4% of cases), personal reasons (3.1%) and conduct issues (2.4%). Rather rarely stated reasons are health problems (2.1% of cases), career change (2.1%), the desire for more time with family (0.9%), disagreement (0.6%) and death (0.6%). Sometimes, more than one reason was given. In 29.7% of cases, no reason was given.

Makris will remain as executive chairman at Simmons

Simmons stated: “On December 19, 2022, the board of directors (“Board”) of Simmons First National Corporation (“Company”) appointed George A. Makris, Jr. (age 66), the Company’s current chairman and chief executive officer, as executive chairman of the Company, effective January 1, 2023. ”

Share price decline since December 2017

The announcement follows a decline in Simmons First National Corp.’s share price of 29% since December 2017.

In the position of CEO since 2014

George Makris became CEO of the Company in 2014.

Makris was elected to the Board in 1997.

He currently serves as chairman and chief executive officer of the Company, as well as the chairman and chief executive officer of the Company’s lead subsidiary, Simmons Bank.

Prior to his employment by the Company on January 2, 2013, Makris had been employed by M. K. Distributors, Inc. since 1980 and had served as its President since 1985.

Makris previously served as a member of the board of directors of Worthen National Bank — Pine Bluff and its successors from 1985 to 1996 and served as Chairman of the Board from 1994 to 1996.

Makris received a B.A. degree in Business Administration from Rhodes College in 1978 and an M.B.A. from the University of Arkansas in 1980.

Makris also serves as an advisory member of the board of trustees of Jefferson Regional Medical Center and a member of the board of directors of The Economic Development Corporation of Jefferson County, Arkansas (for which he previously served as chairman of the board).

He has previously served as Chairman of the board of trustees of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County, Chairman of the board of directors of the Greater Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the King Cotton Classic Basketball Tournament, Chairman of the board of trustees of Trinity Episcopal School, a director of Simmons First National Bank, a director of the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Arkansas, a director of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, a director of CHI St. Vincent. and a member of the board of visitors of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, College of Medicine.

51 words by George Makris

In the announcement of the leadership change, George Makris kept it short and said 51 words.

“Very proud”

George Makris stated: “Simmons has developed an outstanding bank management team – one that is deep on talent and experience but also has a long runway ahead of them. I am, therefore, very proud that our organization will be making these changes now to provide expanded leadership within the excellent banking team we have built.”

Over the past 12 months, 26% of all outgoing CEOs remained silent in the departure announcement, according to data compiled by exechange. Departing CEOs who did make a statement said an average of 109 words. The longest statement was 382 words. The shortest statement was 23 words. Leadership transitions in which departing CEOs provide conspicuously short, excessively long or no explanations for their move are statistically associated with elevated pressure and show an increased incidence of Push-out Scores above the critical threshold of 5.

33% of CEOs are forced out or fired

When CEO departures are announced, exechange determines the Push-out Score on a scale of 0 to 10 to assess how likely it is that the chief executive was pushed out or felt pressure to leave the position, with 0 being most likely a voluntary move and 10 being most likely a forced exit. Anything over a 5 indicates that there are valid reasons to believe an executive may have been pushed out.

Of the 327 CEO departures in the Russell 3000 Index evaluated over the past 12 months (December 19, 2021, to December 18, 2022), the average Push-out Score was 5.6, according to exechange data. References to conduct issues, disagreements and irregularities lead to the highest Push-out Scores. When time with family, performance issues or other opportunities were cited as departure reasons, the average Push-out Scores were also significantly elevated.

Around 33% of the CEO departure events from the past 12 months received Push-out Scores of 8 or higher.

In other words, in the past 12 months, three in 10 departing CEOs were forced out or fired.

Pressure in the financials sector substantially below the critical threshold

Some industries are under generally higher pressure than others, and CEOs are feeling the strain. In the past 12 months, the communication, consumer staples and health care sectors showed the highest average Push-out Scores. By contrast, pressure on CEOs was lowest in the real estate, industrials and financials sectors, as measured by average Push-out Scores.

In the financials sector, which includes Simmons First National Corp., the average Push-out Score over the past 12 months was 4.4, which is substantially below the critical threshold of 5.

Nevertheless, even in this sector, some CEOs were compelled to leave their posts under what appeared to be severe stress. In the financials sector, 12 exiting CEOs received Push-out Scores of 8 or higher over the past 12 months, indicating that they were most likely forced out or faced strong pressure to step down.

Push-out Score for George Makris’s move determined

The Push-out Score regarding George Makris’s move is explained point by point in the exechange report.

exechange reached out to Simmons and offered the company the opportunity to comment on the score.

Read the full story in the exechange report 52.2022 ($).