General Electric Co.’s (NYSE: GE) new board chair and chief executive, John Flannery, has purged the top end of former CEO Jeff Immelt’s executive team, firing all three of the vice chairs who were part of the sinking conglomerate’s executive suit. Each has been with the company for decades. None currently runs a major company division.
The vice chair role at GE is an odd one. The people who hold the title do not sit on the board of which they are vice chairs. One of those fired was Jeffrey S. Bornstein, the chief financial officer. The others were John Rice, who runs something called Global Growth Organization. The third, Beth Comstock, runs the Business Innovations unit, which is ill-defined. All three “retired” and were given warm send offs by Flannery. It appears that the vice chair title will be retired for the time being as well.
GE will continue to have what appears to be a unwieldy mix of corporate staff and division CEOs. Based on the direction Flannery has taken, this probably puts the jobs of the heads of GE’s Europe, Africa and companywide technology and productivity operations at risk.
In his farewell to Comstock, Flannery showed that the comments about those departing and the reality of their importance to GE must be different:
Beth’s passion for innovation has opened new markets for GE and changed the way we work. We have relied on Beth to see around corners and lead us to new ideas and invention. Her efforts to push GE into the future have been essential to GE’s growth strategy; including identifying the potential of the Industrial Internet and helping transform GE into a digital industrial company.
She will not be able to see around corners anymore, at least not for GE.