About 10 percent of the CEOs in the S&P 500 are 65 years old or older, working well past the traditional retirement age.

Share story

The bull market is getting older. So are the CEOs powering it.

As the United States enters the ninth year of economic recovery, big-company chief-executive officers are, on average, as old as they’ve been in at least 17 years, according to a study released by the Conference Board and recruiter Heidrick & Struggles.

About 10 percent of the CEOs in the S&P 500 are 65 years old or older, working well past the traditional retirement age.

Warren Buffett is the oldest, at 88.

Most Read Business Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The aging of the C-suite is driven by complementary factors. Executives aren’t eager to retire, and directors are increasingly comfortable keeping them around.

“If you have to choose between prolonging the tenure of an executive who’s performing well, rather than facing the uncertainties that are inevitably linked to a CEO succession, well, obviously you go for the first, right?” said Matteo Tonello, managing director for corporate leadership at The Conference Board.

In 2017, chief-executive officers were 58 years old on average, up from an average age of 55 a decade ago, according to the report. They’re also keeping their jobs longer: Average tenure is up to 10.9 years, the most since 2002.

Sixteen CEOs have been running the same companies for at least 25 years.

That includes Leslie Wexner, who’s led L Brands for 55 years, making him the longest-serving executive in the S & P 500.

RELATED

Special Report: CEO Pay

Some Northwest CEOs earn 200 or 400 times what average employee is paid

Top CEOs get massive pay awards, but portions may evaporate

Chart: Comparing pay for the boss and the typical employee in the Northwest

For U.S. CEOs, $11.7 million a year is just middle of the pack

Jon Talton: It’s suite at the top, but runaway CEO pay doesn’t help the economy