This is the reason why every organization should have a succession plan in place for its CEO and other top executives.  It is also the reason why the PR department should have a crisis plan that envisions the loss of the CEO.  Death at the hands of an allegedly drunk snowplow driver is unusual and might be a first but mortality itself is not unheard off, especially through disease.  This is another reason why CEOs should not be put on pedestals and worshiped by their organizations as Steve Jobs was, for example. The chief executive is the visible leader of an organization, but in the end, has no more power over his or her destiny than anyone else.  Understanding of the tenuous nature of leadership has increased with more active boards that are now independent of their CEOs.  If a chief executive is removed today, it is more likely though poor performance or a scandal.  Most of the time, PR is far removed from boardroom deliberations, but that doesn’t absolve it from having a plan in place and rehearsing how to handle the news of the death or departure of the CEO.

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