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  • Writer's pictureJeff Matthews

Donald Immelt?

“It became clear right away that my main role would be Person to Blame,” Mr. Immelt writes in his new book “Hot Seat: What I Learned Leading a Great American Company,” which will be published Feb. 23. While he admits he made mistakes, he says he felt moved to write about his years at GE’s helm to highlight the often-dire context of his decisions. “I dealt with bad news almost every day,” Mr. Immelt says over Zoom from his home on Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina.

That's from today's Wall Street Journal article titled "Jeff Immelt and the Humbling of GE", which says the former and very well-paid CEO, who readers may recall jetted around the world with a backup jet following, just in case something went wrong and he might have to fly commercial, "admits he made mistakes but argues he faced 'bad news almost every day.'"

Even back before GE hit the proverbial fan, your editor argued that Immelt had been dealt a bad hand by Jack Welch, who turned GE from a company that made stuff to a company that "made the quarter"--i.e. played the quarterly earnings game for the money managers on Wall Street who cared nothing for the underlying businesses at GE, but only that GE made their promised numbers.

Could Mr. Immelt have changed GE back into a company that made stuff, Wall Street's quarterly expectations be damned, even if he wanted to? That's not clear.

Your editor met Mr. Immelt during the fat years at GE, just after he put the appliance business on the block, and one of the attendees at the cocktail party complained to him about a GE appliance that had broken.

The natural response of a CEO to that kind of public complaint is to apologize, take their name and give it to somebody to follow up on. It's what leaders immersed in a great culture do. Just ask Bernie Marcus.

We remember Bernie, one of the founders of Home Depot, abruptly leaving a group of self-important Wall Street analysts touring one of his stores to help a customer find the paint aisle.

And not returning until the customer was being helped by the paint guy.

But Mr. Immelt was no Bernie Marcus.

Instead, he--always the tallest guy in any room--looked down at the GE appliance owner with a sort of smirky smile and said, "Why do you think we're selling that business?"

That's more Donald Trump than Bernie Marcus.

Beware forced-out-CEOs writing memoirs.

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Irum Rizvi
Irum Rizvi
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