The abrupt resignation Sept. 26 of Equifax CEO and chairman Richard Smith, 57, highlights the wisdom of any company having an executive succession plan in place. Generally well regarded before news broke of an unprecedented security breach at the credit-reporting agency earlier this year — and, worse yet, the sale by three top executives of Equifax stock before the public was advised of the leak — Smith had been with the company 12 years and wasn't expected to leave anytime soon. Still, replacing him will be a matter of faculties and not familiarity to the public. When a former corporate leader is a well-known public icon whose image is intimately tied to, or conflated with, the company's, the task can be exponentially more difficult than the one Equifax faces now.
CNBC takes a look at five business icons whose departure — past or future — from the firms they founded, financed or finessed have either posed succession-planning headaches for shareholders and boards or spurred them to designate and insinuate their heirs themselves.
— By CNBC's Kenneth Kiesnoski
Updated 26 September 2017. Originally posted 12 June 2014