The Turnaround of General Electric

What actions, including potential divestitures, should GE CEO John Flannery take to turn the company around?

Kathryn Harrigan  | Spring 2018
Print this page

For almost forty years, the General Electric Company (GE) was considered to be one of the world’s best-managed global firms. But by 2017, GE was in the rifle sights of shareholder activists, like Nelson Peltz, because it had become the lowest-performing company in the Dow Jones Industrial Index. Investors wanted a turnaround. Turning GE around could mean the abandonment of GE’s traditional conglomerate strategy of organic growth and astute acquisitions, as well as an end to many of the elements of organizational structure, managerial systems, and decision-making processes that had defined how GE implemented its corporate strategy. Flannery hinted that GE was considering breaking itself up into smaller pieces, possibly going as far as to spin off its three “core” businesses. But since GE had owned some of the businesses on its short list for divestiture for many years, it would face huge tax liabilities in an outright sale of assets instead of doing a spin-off to shareholders. Ripping apart the GE family also had implications for the value of the corporate office’s contributions to each respective line of business and its ability to renew itself organically.

Case ID: 180409
Supplemental Materials: Teaching Note

Buy select cases through Ivey Publishing and Harvard Business Publishing.

Contact us by e-mail at Columbia CaseWorks or 646-745-8495.