Quitting at the top is a very rare occurrence

CHIEF executives stepping down for health reasons are a rare breed, despite their gruelling schedules and the intense pressure mounted on them.

Andy Hornby’s departure from Alliance Boots less than a year after accepting the job shocked the business world. Executive chairman Stefano Pessina later revealed Hornby was suffering from stress and had probably returned to the cut and thrust of leading a multi-national company too soon after the collapse of HBOS.

Mike O’Neill lasted just a single day as chief executive of Barclays before being forced to step down in 1999. He checked in for a routine medical after arriving at the company only to discover a heart murmur.

Chris Moyes quit as boss of the transport company he had founded, Go Ahead Group, in July 2006 after becoming too ill to carry on. After battling what was described as a “short illness,” he died three months later aged 57.

The recently-deceased Steve Jobs famously stepped down as chief executive of Apple over the summer after a long fight with cancer. Before this he had taken two leaves of absence – once in 2004 and again in 2009.