Out of the frying pan and into the fire — that seems to be what’s in store for former GE CEO Jeff Immelt, who is reported to be the frontrunner for the job of CEO at troubled ride-hailing firm Uber. Immelt was forced out at GE at the end of July after a 16-year run as the company’s CEO.
Unnamed sources cited in a report at Recode say that Uber’s board of directors is “coalesing” in favor of Immelt although two additional candidates remain in the running. Neither of the other candidates is a woman according to the report.
Immelt headed the transition of GE from a company that depended on financial services back to its roots as an industrial firm, shedding GE Capital in favor of investing in areas like 3D printing (additive manufacturing) and smart machines to give the firm a technological edge. The problem he couldn’t overcome was the share price which has been stagnant for about 3 years and has fallen by a third in the past 10 years.
The issues facing Uber are significantly different and Immelt’s stature and experience give the board some confidence that having an adult in the room could stanch losing top executives, flagging morale among the troops, diversifying and expanding the board of directors, and resolving the legal issues that face Uber in several jurisdictions around the world.
It’s a tall order, but Uber board member Arianna Huffington is a strong supporter of Immelt. Benchmark Capital, which recently sued former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and the company, remains on the fence according to Recode.
Militating against Immelt’s selection could be the same thing that makes him attractive to many on the board: he’s a Silicon Valley outsider. While he may be able to bring some stability to the company, does he have the entrepreneurial drive to push Uber toward an initial public offering?
At the rate things are going at Uber, an IPO seems a long way off. Immelt may not be the guy to get the company there, but he may be the guy who can set the table. Stay tuned.