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CEO Investment Cycles

  • Yihui Pan
  • Tracy Yue Wang
  • Michael S. Weisbach

This paper documents the existence of a CEO Investment Cycle, in which firms disinvest early in a CEO's tenure and increase investment subsequently, leading to "cyclical" firm growth in assets as well as in employment over CEO tenure. The CEO investment cycle occurs for both firings and non-performance related CEO turnovers, and for CEOs with different relationships with the firm prior to becoming CEO. The magnitude of the CEO cycle is substantial: The estimated difference in investment rate between the first three years of a CEO's tenure and subsequent years is approximately 6 to 8 percentage points, which is of the same order of magnitude as the differences caused by other factors known to affect investment, such as business cycles or financial constraints. We present a variety of tests suggesting that this investment cycle is best explained by a combination of agency-based theories: Early in his tenure the CEO disinvests poorly performing assets that his predecessor established and was unwilling to give up on. Subsequently, the CEO overinvests when he gains more control over his board. There is no evidence that the investment cycles occur because of shifting CEO skill or productivity shocks. Overall, the results imply that public corporations' investments deviate substantially from the first-best, and that governance-related factors internal to the firm are as important as economy-wide factors in explaining firms' investments.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19330.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19330.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19330
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  1. Vojislav Maksimovic & Gordon Phillips, 2002. "Do Conglomerate Firms Allocate Resources Inefficiently Across Industries? Theory and Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(2), pages 721-767, 04.
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  3. Yihui Pan & Tracy Yue Wang & Michael S. Weisbach, 2015. "Learning About CEO Ability and Stock Return Volatility," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 28(6), pages 1623-1666.
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  9. Murphy, Kevin J. & Zimmerman, Jerold L., 1993. "Financial performance surrounding CEO turnover," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1-3), pages 273-315, April.
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  13. Jean Tirole, 2006. "The Theory of Corporate Finance," Post-Print hal-00173191, HAL.
  14. Morten Bennedsen & Kasper Meisner Nielsen & Francisco Perez-Gonzalez & Daniel Wolfenzon, 2007. "Inside the Family Firm: The Role of Families in Succession Decisions and Performance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 647-691.
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