Jeffrey Immelt, the former chief of General Electric Co., may well be qualified to take over at Uber Technologies Inc., the troubled ride-sharing company. He may even be lobbying for the job.
Recode reported that Immelt, 61, is the leading candidate to replace Uber's ousted co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick. Kalanick, 41, resigned in June after five of Uber's major investors, including the venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, demanded that he leave. Immelt stepped down as GE's CEO on Aug. 1 but will serve as GE's chairman until the end of the year.
"People are calling us a 125-year-old start-up -- we're a digital industrial company that's defining the future of the internet of things," Immelt wrote about GE in an article for Harvard Business Review that was published this week. Changing a big company requires a CEO who can embrace such things as new talent, new culture and a new way of doing things, he wrote.
That sounds a lot like what a management consultant says is needed at Uber.
"The new CEO has to demonstrate that things are going to be different," said Micah Alpern, a principal at management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. Whoever leads Uber will need to be not only someone who has gone through and knows how to handle the growing pains of a startup but who also can change corporate culture and believes in diversity and inclusion, Alpern said in an interview with TheStreet.
No one at GE responded to requests for a comment from Immelt about his plans.
Kalanick's exit came after months of turmoil that made Uber a prime example of a start-up culture gone wrong. Allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination led to two investigations and the dismissal of almost two dozen employees. The company, which is valued at about $68 billion, is also facing several lawsuits, including an intellectual property battle with Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report over its self-driving car technology.
Whether Immelt is the right person to sort out the Uber puzzle is at least debatable.
"I don't get it," TheStreet's Jim Cramer said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "You go from a company that's a colossus to a company that's a colossally crazed company and maybe Jeff wants that challenge." Cramer said it's possible that Immelt would bring a steady hand to Uber.
Still, for all Immelt's success at transforming GE's business and culture, he also presided over a 35% drop in the value of GE shares during his 16-year tenure. By comparison, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose about 127% over that time, according to Bloomberg data. Uber is owned by its investors and doesn't have publicly-traded shares.
As of Aug. 24, there are 23 analysts covering GE, of which about 58% rate the shares a "Buy," compared with about 32% having a "Hold" rating and 10% with a "Sell" rating, per Bloomberg data.
Nor is previous success a guarantee for the future, said Nada Usina, member of the CEO/Board Services Practice at the executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
"When you bring in a CEO that follows the founder, the maturity of that CEO and what they have seen in terms of business cycles as well as the agility within their own careers will be a major contributor to their success," Usina said.
Investors generally support Immelt as the choice for Uber's next CEO, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The New York Times. Immelt was viewed favorably by 47% of the respondents, a third of which said Immelt would do a better job than Kalanick as CEO.
Immelt, though, ranked behind such other CEOs as Facebook Inc.'s (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report Mark Zuckerberg and Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report Tim Cook. Even former Apple CEO Steve Jobs ranked ahead of Immelt, and Jobs died in 2011.
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While Immelt appears to have investors' support, a subcommittee of the board, led by Matt Cohler of Benchmark, Arianna Huffington, Wan Ling Martello of Nestle SA (NSRGY) - Get NSRGY Report , David Trujillo of private equity company TPG and Kalanick, will ultimately decide which person will be the next to lead the ride-hailing company.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (HPE) - Get Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (HPE) Report CEO Meg Whitman was reportedly being considered for the CEO position, but she told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that she is "not going anywhere," leaving the door open for Immelt.
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