To GE or not to GE

Here Jeffrey R. Immelt explains how he remade General Electric (GE), the company where he served as CEO from September 2001 to August 2017. And here you can see how the market rates his “job”:

When he took over in Sept. 2001, GE was the world’s most valuable company. Since then, GE has lost nearly 50% of its value, while the aggregated Dow Jones Industrial average grew +120%. P/E ratio has gone from 40:1 to 17:1 in the last decade.

(Please, do notice I am comparing GE’s performance with none of the big successes of this period: Apple, Google, Amazon or Facebook; nor any of their Chinese doppelgangers. No, just the average of their counterparts: companies like Walt Disney, Coca-cola, IBM or Verizon.)

Since Jeffrey stepped down as CEO (he will remain as chairman of GE until the end of 2017), he’s been very active in the news. He seems to be looking for another job. (e.g. to run Uber). His HBR article looks like a long cover letter where he pours all the “topics” and “buzzwords” of what’s cool in business today. From digital transformation and software eating the world, to the lean start-up, pivoting and going all-in.

I agree with Jeffrey that “the task of the CEO has never been as difficult as it is today.” To guide a huge, old behemoth through the troubled waters of change and innovation today is as dangerous as it was to sail the unknown ocean 1,000 thousand years ago. But do you think this is an excuse for someone who spent 16 years as CEO? He says:

I’m confident that I’m handing over a company that will flourish in the 21st century. Some people at GE feel that the stock market doesn’t fully appreciate what we’ve accomplished. But I look at it this way: Our task now is just to perform, to execute, and let the market make its own judgement.

I would say that he transformed THE industrial company in just A(nother) industrial company, but I do not know GE well enough for a well-founded judgement. Therefore, I would like to hear interesting ideas from more knowledgeable people. What do you think? Do you think Jeffrey is right? Would you bet on GE?

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