Jeffrey Immelt, who steered GE through the financial crisis and took it back to its industrial roots, will step down Aug. 1 amid pressure from some investors. Successor John Flannery, who ran GE’s health-care division, promised “a sense of urgency” but gave no specifics.
General Electric, the sprawling maker of jet engines, light bulbs, MRI machines and countless other products, is getting new leadership for the first time in 16 years.
The company said Monday that its longtime chairman and chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt — who worked to refocus GE on its industrial roots after the 2008 financial crisis made its vast financing business much less attractive — would retire and be succeeded by John Flannery, the chief executive of the company’s health-care division.
The shift could augur further changes at the company, whose history reaches back more than a century to the laboratories of the famed inventor Thomas Edison. While GE ranks among the world’s great industrial powerhouses, its stock price has languished and the company has been under particular pressure since Trian Fund Management, run by the billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, took a big stake in it nearly two years ago.
Flannery stated in a video broadcast on Facebook that he would “take a fresh look at the company” with a “sense of urgency.” He set a goal of presenting recommendations later this year.
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“No one’s happy with the stock price now,” Flannery said. He added that the health-care sector in particular offered “so much long-term growth,” saying that GE was “just scratching the surface of what we can do in that business.”
Flannery, 55, will become chief executive of GE on Aug. 1. Immelt, 61, will remain as chairman until he retires on Dec. 31. Flannery will then add the role of chairman.
“During this time of dynamic global markets and relentless focus on technology and operational excellence, there is no better person to lead GE than John Flannery,” Jack Brennan, the company’s lead independent director, said in a news release.
Like Immelt, Flannery is a veteran of GE, beginning at GE Capital in 1987 with a focus on evaluating risk for leveraged buyouts. He has held other posts at the conglomerate, running its corporate restructuring and workout group, leading its GE Equity business and working with GE Capital in Latin America and Asia.
The announcement caps a long career for Immelt, who replaced Jack Welch, GE’s legendary chairman and chief executive, just days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.