Jeffrey R. Immelt

Jeffrey R. Immelt
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric
Assumed office
September 7, 2001
Preceded by Jack Welch
Personal details
Born Jeffrey Robert Immelt
(1956-02-19) February 19, 1956
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Andrea Immelt
Children Sarah
Alma mater Dartmouth College
Harvard University
Immelt at U.S. Climate Action Partnership event in 2007
Immelt (left) in the Polish Senate in 2009

Jeffrey Robert "Jeff" Immelt (born February 19, 1956) is an American business executive. He is currently the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the U.S.-based conglomerate General Electric. He was selected as GE's CEO by their Board of Directors in 2000 to replace Jack Welch upon Welch's retirement from GE. Previously, Immelt had headed up GE's Medical Systems division (now known as GE Healthcare) as its President and CEO.

Early life

Immelt was born in Cincinnati, the son of Donna Rosemary (née Wallace), a school teacher, and Joseph Francis Immelt, who managed the General Electric Aircraft Engines Division ("GEAE" is now known as GE Aviation).[1][2]

Immelt attended Finneytown High School; he played football in college and was an offensive tackle.[3] He earned an A.B. in Applied Mathematics and Economics cum laude [4] from Dartmouth College graduating with the class of 1978; he currently serves on the Dartmouth board of trustees[5][6] and was president of his fraternity, Phi Delta Alpha.

During his years at Dartmouth he worked summers on a Ford assembly line in Cincinnati; after graduating he worked for Procter and Gamble before matriculating at Harvard for his MBA.[7]

Immelt earned his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, graduating in 1982. He described "business school [as] one of the most intense times of your life." [8]


General Electric


Immelt has been with GE since 1982, when he graduated from Harvard with his MBA. He held a number of increasingly senior positions in GE's plastics, appliances, and healthcare businesses. He became a GE officer in 1989, joined the GE Capital board in 1997 and took on the leadership of GE Healthcare before being named CEO.[9]

The competition for the CEO position that Immelt won is the stuff of corporate legends. It began when Jack Welch asked Gary Wendt, the head of GE Financial Services, Inc, then a $41 billion empire and GE's most profitable division, to resign, on the theory that he would overshadow Welch's other candidates.[10] Immelt surpassed Robert Nardelli, who was so close to Welch that his nickname was "Little Jack", and James McNerney; Nardelli would leave GE to head Home Depot and then Chrysler, and McNerney left GE to lead 3M (before going on to lead Boeing). Immelt was selected by the GE Board in November, 2000, to succeed Welch as CEO of GE; he served as GE's President and Chairman-elect for ten months before taking the position of Chairman and CEO of GE on September 7, 2001.[4]

Crisis management

Immelt has been thrust into three significant external crises since taking the lead at GE as Chairman on September 7, 2001. Almost immediately he faced the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He then was pressed to defend GE's business model and the quality of its financial reports as the economy reeled from the Enron crisis. In 2008-09 he shepherded GE through the United States financial crisis.

His tenure as chairman and CEO started off on a low note – he took over the role on September 7, 2001,[11] just four days before the terrorist attacks on the United States, which killed two employees and cost GE's insurance business $600 million, as well as having a direct effect on the company's Aircraft Engines sector.

Immelt defended GE's reporting elections and the quality of its financial statements following heightened scrutiny after the Enron crisis. In 2001, his first year end as CEO, Immelt famously offered the market and the SEC a choice in financial reports, a new dramatically expanded set of reports with more details,[12] versus what had been the traditional format for GE's SEC filings. The experiment seemed to confirm that the traditional format, which was shorter, was preferable and it continues to be used at GE today. Immelt's intuition and judgments about financial reporting transparency were validated in experiments in behavioral economics conducted at Princeton in 2004.[13] Immelt has led GE through two reporting challenges since then: it has been required to restate its SEC filings;[14] and, in 2009 GE agreed to pay the SEC $50 million to settle allegations of accounting fraud.[15]

GE could not escape the 2008 crisis that was fueled by the mortgage-backed securities debacle on Wall Street and the liquidity crisis that brought the derivatives market to its knees. GE's major financial business is known as GE Capital and it is operated largely through the General Electric Credit Corporation subsidiary. As part of its response to the credit crisis, GE joined Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley in forming a wholly owned banking affiliate that qualified as a Savings and Loan Association. This entitles the subsidiary to FDIC insurance over its deposit at the cost of bowing to regulation as a bank holding company. Aid received from the Federal Reserve by GE has also become a political issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.[16]


Immelt has not been a passive inheritor of "the house that Jack built." [17] In fact at the outset of this time as GE's CEO, Immelt took pains to establish that he would act as "his own man." [18]

Welch preferred internal, or "organic" growth and benefited from long-term US economic trends that buoyed his major business lines. In particular Welch's tenure benefited from the economic expansion during the Clinton Administration which ended immediately before Immelt became GE's CEO. The US economy has faced a number of shocks since Immelt became CEO: the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the USA, the 2008-09 financial crisis, and the recessionary quarters under the Obama Administration.

Immelt's governance has taken a different path, differentiating him from Welch in both substance and style. On the one hand he has eliminated or reduced GE's involvement in a number of businesses from the Welch era, with moves in the Plastics, Appliance and GE Capital businesses. On the other hand, he has seized the growing international nature of commerce to expand GE's operations overseas.


The GE plastics business was sold in 2007 for $11.6 billion to Saudi Arabian interests.[19] Welch had been the leader of GE's plastics business before being named its overall CEO. In 2014 GE agreed to sell its appliance business for $3.3 billion [20] In 2013[21] Immelt completed the sale of NBC Universal to Comcast for $8 billion.[22]

In April 2015, GE announced a major series of reorganization steps. It plans to sell its real estate business for $26.5 billion, sell most of its GE Capital assets which now total $500 billion, and repatriate nearly $36 billion in cash held overseas to fund while the Board also authorized a share buyback program using up to $50 billion.[23] This plan confirms GE's intent to exit the banking business.[24]

Acquisitions and investments

Immelt's reorganization of GE has been accomplished in part through a number of acquisitions. He underscored the riskiness of an acquisition-based growth strategy in 2011 when he said, "You can't do a lot of deals, and have them all be great." [22] Geographically his strategy has focused on two areas: China and Europe.

GE's efforts in China have been central to Immelt's vision. In July 2011 Immelt's General Electric announced that it is in the process of relocating its X-ray division from Wisconsin to China.[25][26] Immelt had previously referred to China as GE's "second home market".[25]

Immelt initiated one of his first major acquisitions in his area of operating expertise, the medical business. In 2004 GE bought UK based Amerhsam PLC for $9.5 billion.[27] GE is currently attempting to complete its acquisition of Alstom, France businesses for an enterprise value of $13.5 billion [28]

At the same time, Immelt has taken a number of actions that have been controversial, with some leading to bad publicity. A major headline grabber has been the reduction in GE's workforce at the same time that Immelt served on a Presidential Council whose aim was to increase US employment (see Public Service section).


On March 3, 2002, according to its fiscal 2001 SEC Form 10K GE had 9,935,629,691 shares of voting common stock outstanding with an aggregate market value $396.1 billion on March 2, 2002. On January 31, 2015, according to its fiscal 2004 SEC Form 10K, GE had 10,064,909,484 shares of voting common stock outstanding with an aggregate market value of at least $261.1 billion on "the last business day of [Ge's] most recently completed second fiscal quarter."

Since taking over, GE's stock price has dropped 3% while income has risen from $15.1 billion in 2002 to $16.9 billion in 2013.[29][30][31] At the ten year mark of Immelt's tenure at GE, its stock price had dropped 61% from its levels when he took over; during that same 10-year period he has paid out $87 billion in dividends.[22] The S&P 500 Index has roughly doubled in value since Immelt took over.


At the end of 2001 when Immelt replaced Welch, GE employed 219,000 worldwide and 125,000 in the US, as reported in its SEC Form 10K for 2001. GE's SEC Form 10K for 2014 states that worldwide employment is 305,000, and US employment is 136,000. These employment levels have varied significantly under Immelt.

General Electric year end employment has varied from 273,000 in 2010 to 305,000 in 2014, a net increase of 37,000. Employment had dropped from 315,000 in 2002 to 307,000 in 2013.[32]


Immelt has been associated in the press with a number of public controversies.

He is working with the NFL to find a constructive medical solution to the head-trauma injury issues faced by football players of all types.

Immelt's role concerning employment and unemployment is his greatest controversy. He served on a Presidential Council whose goal included increasing employment in the US while leading GE during more than a decade of volatility in the number of people it employs. Those believing his business roles contributed to unemployment have demonstrated at his college speeches. The number of people employed by GE has been volatile as a performance statistic, both rising and falling; that volatility reflects both GE cost cutting efforts under GE and the acquisition and sale of several large businesses, each with their own significant number of employees.

Immelt's strategies have contributed to a build-up of cash. At the end of 2012, over $100 billion had been kept offshore to avoid a special federal repatriation tax.[33] As such, GE is a member of a controversial group of American companies experiencing "trapped cash" thought to exceed $1.7 trillion across this group of corporations. In 2015, GE announced a repatriation program for part of its cash balances.

After the US fiscal crisis of 2008–09, Immelt reduced GE's dividends to conserve capital and internal funding, causing a negative reaction among some dividend-oriented investors. He recently began a public campaign to press the state of Connecticut for local tax benefits and threatened to move some of GE's operations out of the state if the benefits were not forthcoming.

As Chairman and CEO of GE, Immelt has come under attack for leading GE towards legally avoiding paying US federal corporate taxes. GE's tax positions have become a major item in Immelt's agenda. GE's local taxes in Connecticut have increased 5 times since 2011, and the state had approved yet another revised tax policy in early 2015. Immelt threatened to move GE"s headquarters out of Connecticut if the state would not back away from the tax plan.[34]

During the US Presidential elections in 2012, GE came under attack for not paying US federal taxes while receiving substantial federal tax benefits. While the tax attacks created the impression that GE paid no taxes, its worldwide tax expense was over $3 billion, with most of the taxes paid in foreign jurisdictions. GE is reported to have paid no federal US taxes in 2010.[35]


Immelt's compensation has fluctuated significantly. In 2014 his compensation totalled $18.8 million,[36] a decrease from his 2013 compensation of $25.8 million.[37] That 2013 compensation had risen 20% over his 2012 compensation of $20.6 million.[38]

Immelt has a total five year compensation of $53.82 million through 2011, an income which ranked sixth among executives employed by US-based conglomerates. Some components of his total compensation package over the years have been newsworthy. In some years he was granted stock options at $0, and in other years he was paid no bonus.[39]

In 2010, Immelt's compensation nearly doubled to $15.2 million.[40] In 2009, Immelt earned a total compensation of $5,487,155.[41] In 2008, he earned a total compensation of $5,717,469.[42] As CEO of General Electric in 2007, Immelt earned a total compensation of $14,209,267.[41]

Charitable activities

Immelt serves on the board of two non-profit organizations, one of which is the Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization which attempts to alleviate problems caused by poverty in New York City.[43] He has also served on the board of Catalyst, a not for profit organization dedicated to advancing women in business.[44]

He was elected a Charter Trustee of his alma mater, Dartmouth, in 2008 and as of 2015 continues in that role. He has also served Dartmouth on its Alumni Council and as a class officer.[45][46]

Immelt has spoken about the benefits of football to his career, from his experiences as a former player. As GE CEO, he has taken a leadership position in finding solutions to the risk of head trauma injuries among NFL players. He announced a series of initiatives with NFL Commissioner Goodell including a GE investment of $40 million to develop diagnostic equipment for use in head trauma injuries, and GE's participation in a separate $20 million effort to develop safer helmets and other equipment.[47]

He has personally participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in which celebrities are videoed pouring buckets of ice water over themselves and the videos are then posted online to help raise charitable funds for the ALS Association.[48]

The GE Foundation has been extolled as a leader in corporate charitable giving since Immelt became GE CEO, with special attention to its efforts to support schools in the US, over and above its university activities, and healthcare in poor countries.[49] Under Immelt, GE frequently appears in lists of notably charitable US corporations; for example, GE was pictured No. 8 in 2008 with charitable disbursements of $161.5 million in a ranking published by Forbes.[50]

Immelt has returned to his hometown High School, Finneytown, to contribute to the Finneytown Schools Education Foundation. The Foundation established the Jeff Immelt Award for leadership in football.[51]

Public service

Immelt served as Chairman of The Business Council, a nonpartisan organization, in 2005 and 2006.[52] It is notable that two GE CEOs, Reginald Jones and Jack Welch, each also served in this capacity.

Immelt was named a member of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 2006.[44] He resigned the board position in 2011.[53]

As one of America's top CEOs, Immelt has been a leading proponent of diversity in the work place, saying "If you're serious about ... making the world work better, the only discriminating factor should be excellence. In other words, GE is committed to diversity ...[because] ... it's the only way to do business right ... [GE is] committed to employing a diverse workforce with the most innovative minds in the world." [54]

In February 2009, in the early days of the Obama administration, Immelt was appointed as a member to the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board to provide the president and his administration with advice and counsel in fixing America's economic downturn.[55] When President Obama chose to put Jeffrey Immelt at the head of the Economic Advisory Board, he felt that Immelt had attributions in knowing what would help the global economy. Obama has reported that Immelt has emerged as one of his top economic advisors in regards to trying to rebuild America's economy.[56]

On January 21, 2011, President Obama announced Immelt's appointment as chairman of his outside panel of economic advisers, succeeding former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.[57] The New York Times reported that Obama's appointment of Immelt was "another strong signal that he intends to make the White House more business-friendly."[57] The council met a total of four times, with its final meeting on January 17, 2012.[58] In 2013, the authorization for the council was not renewed, causing the council to be permanently shut down.[59]


Jeff Immelt has earned significant honors throughout his career, beginning with his graduation from Dartmouth cum laude and earning the Earl Hamilton Varsity Award, as a college football player, for friendship and character. Later in 2002, he received the Robert Fletcher Award from Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering.[45]

Career honors

Barron's has named Immelt of the "World's Best CEOs" three times. He is a member of The American Academy of Arts & Sciences.[60][61] The Financial Times named him "Man of the Year" in 2003.[44] Immelt was named to Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2009.[62]

Immelt was awarded the 2014 American Football Coaches Association Tuss McLaughry Award, given to a distinguished American (or Americans) for the highest distinction in service to others.[63] In accepting the award, he said "I am a product of football and I owe a great debt of gratitude to that system. "What I learned playing football enters my life every day." [64]

In April 2015, Immelt won the 20th edition of the Leonardo International Prize "as a foreigner who reinforced his country's cultural and economic ties with Italy." [65]

On 24 December 2015, Immelt was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 50 in the list of 500 Most Influential CEO's.[66]

Commencement addresses

He has been awarded approximately ten Honorary Doctorates and has given more than this number of university speeches including Commencement Addresses.

After becoming chairman of GE, Immelt delivered his first university address to the 2001 graduating class of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, of which he is an alumnus, as their Investiture Speaker.[4] He gave the college commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Dartmouth, in June 2004.[67]

On February 26, 2002, shortly after becoming GE's Chairman and CEO, Immelt gave a Town Hall speech at Georgia Institute of Technology as a guest of their President.[68] In the years that followed, Immelt gave the commencement address at Northeastern University (2006) and received the honorary Doctorate of Business Administration.[69] He returned to Georgia Tech in the spring of 2007 as their commencement speaker.[70] He was commencement speaker at the University of Notre Dame on May 20, 2007, where he was awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws.[71] He was commencement speaker at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute on May 17, 2008[72] and received an honorary degree.[73]

Immelt served as commencement speaker at Michigan State University's 2 pm ceremony on December 11, 2010, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of business.[74] He was the commencement speaker on May 23, 2010, at Hamilton College, which awarded him its honorary Doctor of Laws,[75] and on May 24, 2010, at Boston College, where he was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Business Administration.[76] He addressed the undergraduate class of 2011 of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on May 23, 2011, and received an honorary Doctor of Public Service [77] degree despite controversy at the school[78] over GE's corporate tax strategies.[79] In May 2013, he delivered the commencement address at the University of Connecticut Graduate School,[80] and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.[81] In 2015 he delivered the commencement address at Siena College[82] where he was also awarded the honorary Doctor of Humanities.[83]

In 2016, Immelt spoke at the commencement for Clemson University's College of Arts, Architecture, and Humanities as well as the College of Engineering and Science. Clemson awarded Immelt with an honorary doctorate and Immelt spoke of how GE hired many Clemson alumni at their gas turbine factory in Greenville, South Carolina.

Personal life

Immelt is married to his wife Andrea and they have one daughter, Sarah.[84] They live in Connecticut.[51] Their purchase of an apartment in New York was featured in a Forbes article.[85]


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Further reading

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Business positions
Preceded by
Jack Welch
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Electric
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Volcker
as Chair of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board
Chair of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness
Position abolished
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