Many companies use the COO position as part of a CEO succession plan. Still, there's been a dramatic decrease in the percentage of companies that filled the COO position after promoting the COO, from around 47 percent to just over 20 percent in 2004, according to Crist Associates. Of the 659 companies studied, only 15 currently employ the same COO that they employed in 1995. By contrast 165 of 659 CEOs have held the same position since 1995.
Based on 1999-2003 proxy statements of the 2004 Fortune 500 and S&P 500, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of companies that have a chief operating officer.