I READ IT SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO

I Read It So You Don’t Have To: Former GE CEO’s New Memoir

In ‘Hot Seat,’ Jeff Immelt gives his version of the iconic American conglomerate’s downfall

Kaushik Viswanath
Marker
Published in
6 min readMar 15, 2021

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Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium

I Read It So You Don’t Have To is a new series that gives you the TL;DR on a new business book you want to read — but don’t have time to.

What did I read?

Jeff Immelt’s new memoir, Hot Seat: What I Learned Leading a Great American Company, published last month.

So who’s Jeff Immelt?

Immelt, once considered a human embodiment of corporate innovation, was the ninth CEO and chairman of General Electric, the American conglomerate better known as GE, from 2001 to 2017. Having served as a manager in GE’s plastics, appliances, and health care divisions through the ’80s and ’90s, he eventually won a succession battle to take over the reins from Jack Welch, GE’s legendary CEO for two decades. Immelt describes himself in the book as “not a genius and not lucky.”

Give me the 30-second sell.

After being subject to endless criticism in the wake of stepping down in 2017, Immelt tries to set the record straight. While his predecessor, Welch, acquired a larger-than-life reputation for turning GE into a titan of American industry (though some have challenged whether that reputation is deserved), Immelt’s tenure has been viewed by most as a disaster, turning GE from a behemoth into a shell of its former self (GE’s share price has plunged from nearly $60 in 2001 to around $12 today).

Immelt doesn’t challenge anyone’s perception of that reality but asks readers to consider the extraordinarily challenging circumstances he led the company through, beginning with 9/11, which occurred just a week into his tenure and hit GE’s aviation business. After that came the Enron scandal, prompting skepticism by investors and the business press of large company financials, then, of course, the 2008 financial crisis to which GE was heavily exposed. The suffering doesn’t end there, explains Immelt — there was the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster that involved GE reactors and, finally, his premature exit from the…

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Kaushik Viswanath
Marker

Previously: Creators & Marker @Medium and business books at Penguin Random House.