Partly false claim: The CEOs of these 19 companies stepped down during the Coronavirus outbreak

Correction: this article previously stated Kim Jeffrey stepped down as CEO of Nestle Waters North America in February 2020. Jeffrey was CEO from 1992 to 2013. Fernando Merce was CEO of Nestle Waters North America from 2017 to February 2020, and our article now reflects this correction.

Shared widely on Instagram ( here ) and Facebook ( here ) a post claims that the CEOs of 19 major companies all stepped while the public was “distracted by the COVID-19 news". Only 10 CEOs out of the 19 companies listed announced they would step down between the start of the outbreak in Wuhan, China and March 27, 2020.

On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) to a number of pneumonia-like cases in the city of Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province ( here ). By January 9, 2020, the WHO had declared the outbreak a new type of coronavirus. On January 21, 2020, the first U.S. case was reported in Seattle, Washington ( here ).

These CEOs stepped down between December 31, 2019 and the time of this article’s publication:

True: Disney

On February 25, 2020, Reuters reported that Walt Disney Company’s Robert Iger would step down as chief executive officer, but would serve as executive chairman and direct the company’s “creative endeavors” until his contract ends on December 31, 2021. ( here )

False: Microsoft

Satya Nadella has been the CEO of Microsoft since February 2014 ( here ), and continues to lead the company during the coronavirus pandemic ( here ).

The post may be referring to Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ decision, announced March 13, 2020, to step down from the company’s board in order to focus on philanthropic works related to global health, education and climate change (here).

True: Hulu

On Jan 31, 2020, Walt Disney Company said Hulu CEO Randy Freer was stepping down, as Disney integrates Hulu’s operations with its direct to consumer and international business (here).

True: IBM

On January 30, 2020, IBM announced that its CEO Ginni Rometty would hand over control to Arvind Krishna, the head of the company’s cloud business, in April 2020 (here).

True: LinkedIn

On February 5, 2020, Jeff Weiner, CEO of the professional networking platform LinkedIn, said that he would step down from his position effective June 1, 2020 (here).

False: Uber Eats

Dara Khosrowshahi has been the CEO of Uber Technologies, Inc. since 2017 (here). He continues to lead the company, including its online food ordering and delivery platform, during the coronavirus pandemic (here).

This might refer to Jason Droege, who was heading UberEats within Uber and stepped down in February 2020. However, Droege was not “CEO” of UberEats (here).

True: Salesforce/Vlocity

On February 25, 2020, Inc said that Keith Block had stepped down as co-chief executive officer, making Marc Benioff the sole CEO of the business software company (here). The same day, Salesforce announced it had signed an agreement (here) to acquire the cloud and mobile software provider Vlocity.

False: Ebay

Citing differences with the company’s board, Devin Wenig stepped down as CEO of Ebay on September 25, 2019, over three months before the outbreak of a new coronavirus in Wuhan (here).

True: MGM

U.S. casino operator MGM Resorts International announced on February 12, 2020, that CEO Jim Murren would step down before completing his contract (here).

False: Nestle

Mark Schneider has been the CEO of Nestle Global since 2017 (here), and continues to lead the multinational food producer during the coronavirus pandemic (here).

The post may be referring to Fernando Mercé, who stepped down as CEO of Nestle Waters North America for personal reasons on February 21, 2020, according to a statement from Nestle.

False: Volkswagen

Herbert Diess has been the chief executive of German carmaker Volkswagen since 2018 (here). During this pandemic, he continues to lead the company, announcing on March 17 that Volkswagen would suspend production as coronavirus hits sales (here).

The post may have been referring to Luca de Meo, who stepped down as CEO of Seat, part of Volkswagen group, on January 7, 2020 (here).

True: Mastercard

On February 25, 2020, Mastercard announced that its CEO of 10 years, Ajay Banga, would step down, but that he would remain in his post until the start of 2021 (here).

False: Nissan

On September 8, 2019, Nissan announced that Hiroto Saikawa would resign as CEO of the automaker on September 16, over three months before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China (here).

True: Victoria’s Secret/Bed, Bath and Body Works (L Brands)

On February 20, 2020, Reuters reported that parent company L Brands would sell a controlling stake in its Victoria’s Secret unit as it focuses on its core Bath & Body Works brand, and that Chief Executive Leslie Wexner would step down (here).

False: T-Mobile

On November 18, 2019 T-Mobile said that John Legere would step down as CEO on April 30, 2020 (here). The announcement was made over a month before the outbreak began in Wuhan.

True: Harley Davidson

On February 28, 2020, Harley-Davidson Inc said Matthew Levatich had stepped down as CEO and the motorcycle maker named Jochen Zeitz as the interim CEO (here).

False: WeWork

Following investor revolt, WeWork’s Adam Neumann stepped down as CEO of the office-sharing start-up on September 24, 2019 (here), over three months before Chinese authorities informed the WHO of the outbreak in Wuhan.

False: JUUL

As merger talks between its biggest investor Altria and Philip Morris collapsed in the face of a regulatory backlash against vaping, Kevin Burns, the CEO of e-cigarette maker Juul, stepped down on September 25, 2019, over three months before the coronavirus outbreak was reported in Wuhan. (here)

True: Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge (Match Group)

On January 28, 2020, Match Group, which owns Tinder, OkCupid and Hinge, announced that CEO Mandy Ginsberg was stepping down after 14 years at the company. (here)


Partly false: Out of the 19 companies listed, only 10 announced that their CEOs would step down between the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China and the time of this article’s publication.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here.