By Alan Murray and David Meyer
February 22, 2018

Good morning.

How low can GE go? The iconic company’s stock, which has lost half its value in the last year, continued to tumble yesterday after The Wall Street Journal published a super-tough take on former CEO Jeff Immelt’s leadership there. The story cited multiple insiders saying Immelt cultivated a culture of optimism—“success theater,” some called it—that didn’t accommodate criticism or failure. As a result, the company’s problems were overlooked and underplayed.

It’s a devastating critique of the company that was once considered the pinnacle of business management and was a training ground for a generation of CEOs. Immelt stepped down as CEO last June and left as chairman in October—three months ahead of schedule.

The story quotes Immelt speaking at an event last May saying “this is a strong, very strong company” and that “when I think about where the stock is compared to what the company is, it’s a mismatch.” GE stock was trading at $28 when he made that comment; yesterday it closed at $14.49.

Reuters piled on the GE narrative this morning, with a story about how overly optimistic the company was about the market for gas turbines last year, leading to the meltdown of its power unit.

Immelt completely remade the GE portfolio during his 16-year reign as CEO, exiting the finance and media businesses and adding to the industrial business. But the company’s stock price took little note of the changes. He also made an effort to transform the company into a leader in applying digital technology to industry—but it is still too early to judge the success of that effort.

One of the advisers GE leaned on in its digital transformation was Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, who has become adviser to a number of large companies trying to transform troubled cultures. Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky has a fascinating profile of Ries out this morning, in which Ries admits he has no interest in ever running a large company like GE. “I would die. I wouldn’t last 10 minutes. It would destroy me.”

More news below.

Alan Murray


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