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To GE Shareholders: If It Helps, I Feel Your Pain

By       Message Brock Novak     Permalink
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Note: Consider this the de-facto sequel to Monday's GE/NAACP brand message article.

Author Opening Statement and Recommendation: As a basis for the assessments and opinions in this article, the author utilized and refers to both GE CEO Immelt's Friday CNBC interview and former GE CEO  Welch's guest host comments today on the same program. The author encourages readers to review the transcripts of each and make their own assessment/opinions/conclusions and welcomes any differences in opinions arrived at.

In this author's opinion, last Friday's 7:30AM pre-market opening CNBC interview with GE CEO Jeff Immelt was an utter disaster. Apparently the stock market felt the same way, with the Dow Industrials free-falling more than 250 points on the day. Other major equity indexes fell in sync.

Mr. Immelt appeared about as prepared to address the IED-like earnings bomb GE had just unleashed moments earlier, as he was aware of the earnings details themselves. In other words, in this author's opinion, as if he was "winging it" (the interview). Seemingly not prepared at all, and giving some credence to the sense he may not have known of the disaster until just moments earlier.

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To be fair, the real fundamental question no one asked him then, and as far as this author is aware, has still not, but must be asked:

"What did you know and when?"

There's only two apparent possibilities unless by this author's challenge here, Mr. Immelt wants to offer the readers a third:

Note: If he does have a third, then please provide in the article comments section. The author will gladly update the article accordingly. If not, the opinions developed from the interview will follow accordingly.

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1) "If" he did (and should have as CEO) know days and/or weeks before the announcement of the emerging earnings problem and did not immediately alert/advise/guide the investment community, he should be promptly removed as CEO, or

2) "If" he did not know until the morning of earnings release as it might too appear, he too should be removed as GE CEO.

Note: A Case Too to Break-up GE to Realize True Share Value?

On item 2), add that this recent event may also further validate the idea that GE is just to darn big for any one person to oversee, grow and manage effectively. Perhaps a silver lining in all this turmoil might be a re-invigorated shareholder campaign to break the company up to release unrealized share value. Adding further credence to a break-up is GE's lackluster, if not horrible stock performance since July 2000 timeframe. Hitting a high of about $58 then, the stock is now at $32, a loss of almost 50%. Meanwhile the Dow is up 15-20% in the same time period.

Whether it was potentially either not immediately promulgating key information to the investment community as it became known or simply not knowing, it appears in fact, either one or the other occurred. There is seemingly no other rational answer or alternative to the news that shocked (and bloodied) Wall Street and by his own observed body language in the interview, seemingly Mr. Immelt himself.

Of course Mr. Immelt, again, if there is a third possibility or reason for the earnings shocker, please feel free to comment on the article to advise the readers. Again, at this point, unless you note otherwise, there appears only the two possibilities noted above.

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In either case, it simply and summarily suggests and/or confirms a serious breach and/or disconnect in leadership, oversight and/or "potentially", timely reporting depending of course on more facts to come from the question posed earlier – what did you know and when? A question which MUST (still) be answered.

All in part or in whole being totally unacceptable and intolerable for any corporate CEO, and even more so coming from a CEO of a company of the size and global stature as GE.

Clearly his own business unit leaders failed him, as did his Friday morning staff interview preparers. Ultimately however, Mr. Immelt failed himself by letting all these individuals in domino fashion, collectively do just that - fail him. All indicators so far seemingly suggest leadership being asleep at the switch.

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