Business & Tech

Immelt exits GE ahead of plan as new CEO adds chairman role

Former GE executive Jeffrey Immelt was expected to leave at the end of the year.

Pat Sullivan/Associated Press/File 2016

Former GE executive Jeffrey Immelt was expected to leave at the end of the year.

DALLAS — General Electric Co.’s Jeffrey Immelt cut his ties with the company about three months ahead of schedule, retiring as chairman and leaving the board.

John Flannery, who took over as chief executive officer from Immelt in August, was elected chairman, GE said in a statement Monday. Immelt left after determining “that the CEO transition has proceeded smoothly,” said the maker of jet engines, gas turbines, and ultrasound machines.

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The shift accelerates GE’s leadership transition as Flannery, under pressure from activist shareholder Trian Fund Management, seeks to reverse this year’s biggest stock drop on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Under the new boss, GE has said it will sell its fleet of corporate jets and unload its industrial-products operation to ABB Ltd. Flannery is expected to outline his plans for GE’s portfolio of businesses next month.

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Immelt, 61, had been expected to step down as chairman of Boston-based GE at the end of the year. He pulled himself out of consideration for the top job at Uber Technologies Inc. in late August.

With his knowledge of a wide variety of industrial businesses and countries where GE did business, Immelt is a potentially attractive candidate to work at a private-equity firm, said Scott Simmons, managing director at Crist Kolder Associates, an executive-search firm.

“There’s gray matter up there that’s valuable,” said Simmons, whose firm has worked with companies such as Medtronic PLC and Polaris Industries Inc. “Making tough decisions, under duress, in a difficult marketplace is what he did and many out there will clamor to have that on their team.”

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Immelt also departed as chairman of Baker Hughes, a GE company. The provider of oil-field equipment and services named CEO Lorenzo Simonelli as chairman. Baker Hughes elected Geoffrey Beattie as lead independent director.

GE has tumbled 22 percent this year. The shares climbed less than 1 percent to $24.66 after the close of regular trading in New York, when Immelt’s departure as chairman was announced.

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